A very human story of “bravery, sacrifice, incredible hardship, horror, and ultimate victory.”



One of the U.S. Marine Corps’ finest—yet largely untold—stories.

By the fall of 2006, al-Qaida in Iraq had been largely cornered in the western province known as Al Anbar. However, as veteran military writer Darack (War Moments: Images & Stories of Combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond, 2019, etc.) writes, they were battle-hardened, well-equipped, vicious, and desperate, and they decided to dig in and throw everything they had at the “invading” Americans. They embedded themselves among the narrow, twisting streets of Haditha (population 25,000) and intimidated the locals into cooperating by murdering anyone they thought supported America. They would place their decapitated victims’ heads on stakes that they planted around the city for the public to see. As one lance corporal recalled, “it wasn’t hell…it was worse than hell. I know it sounds cliché, but nothing could be that bad. It was beyond my worst, most horrific nightmares.” Striking and withdrawing over and over, they also set mines on the roads on which Marine convoys traveled. It was against this background that the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment arrived with orders to drive out the terrorists, a monumental, highly dangerous task. The author, who has embedded with American troops multiple times in both Afghanistan and Iraq, tells the story battle by battle, often in gripping, brutal, and sometimes-gruesome detail. However, this book is more than a typical war story. To defeat al-Qaida in Iraq, the Marines realized they would have to win the locals’ trust, which they did in imaginative ways. For example, on Halloween, soldiers went trick-or-treating through Haditha neighborhoods and gave candy to children. The only real weakness of the text is Darack’s excessive use of Marine acronyms (TTP, AO, COC, BATS, SVBIED, etc.), which will become tiresome for civilian readers without a military background.

A very human story of “bravery, sacrifice, incredible hardship, horror, and ultimate victory.”

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-306-92265-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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


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.



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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