An unusual tale of war and remembrance, with particular appeal—but perhaps disturbing undertones—for Vietnam and air-combat...

WHERE THEY LAY

SEARCHING FOR AMERICA’S LOST SOLDIERS

Solidly detailed amalgam of military history and contemporary archaeology, tracing American attempts to recover fallen soldiers.

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot staff writer Swift’s debut chronicles from start to finish a recovery search by the military’s Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), an expensive initiative to find remains of soldiers deemed “missing in action” during far-flung WWII and Vietnam battles. The author depicts such efforts as an unwritten contract with the military’s soldiers, an observation with particular poignancy regarding the helicopter crew the search pursues, lost in southeastern Laos on a virtual suicide mission in 1971. In the present day, Swift arrives in remote, snake-infested territory with an elaborately provisioned US-Laotian team for a monthlong dig; he’d previously visited sites in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. The success of such projects depends on the team’s unorthodox but skilled military specialists and anthropologists, but also, more troublingly, on the locals’ compromised recollections—Swift cites cash-strapped officials hoarding and recycling war relics and remains. The author alternates his exhaustive look at the recovery process, which yields many tantalizing helicopter fragments but no conclusive human remains, with a dramatic recreation of events leading to the final mission of the four doomed airmen. They had volunteered for a repeat sortie into a “hot LZ” as part of the war’s largest helicopter campaign, which attempted to assist besieged South Vietnamese forces but was turned by the Vietcong into a devastating shoot-down. This action adds some muscle to the relatively cerebral, though haunting account of the arduous, inconclusive recovery operation. Overall, Swift’s narrative demonstrates a firm grasp on the dark quirks of contemporary Southeast Asia and on the determined efforts in challenging circumstances made by the talented eccentrics of the CILHI, though he also discusses the prospect of CILHI being too costly and difficult to continue indefinitely.

An unusual tale of war and remembrance, with particular appeal—but perhaps disturbing undertones—for Vietnam and air-combat buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16820-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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