CUSTER

THE MAKING OF A YOUNG GENERAL

A book that should appeal to military history enthusiasts, but those seeking a more standard biography should look elsewhere.

A look at the early career of one of the most controversial figures in American military history.

George Armstrong Custer’s place in American history was secured on June 25, 1876, when he and more than 260 of his men perished at the Battle of Little Bighorn. In his latest book, award-winning Civil War historian Longacre (The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861, 2014, etc.) aims to highlight Custer’s Civil War career while “correct[ing] the myths, misconceptions, and misinterpretations that have distorted readers’ impressions of the soldier and the man.” The son of an Ohio blacksmith and farmer, Custer earned admission to West Point, where his indifference toward his studies and predilection for pranks led to graduation at the bottom of his class in 1861. Yet the Civil War provided opportunity for the young soldier. Commissioned as a second lieutenant of cavalry, he saw action in First Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, and Antietam. In 1863, under Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, the 23-year-old Custer won promotion to brigadier general of volunteers. Following his bold and brave fighting in the Gettysburg campaign, he returned home to propose to Elizabeth Clift Bacon, which is where this book ends. Longacre effectively deconstructs several of the myths surrounding Custer, particularly the mysterious circumstances of his admission to West Point. The author also relates a few savory tidbits, including the acrophobic Custer’s periodic balloon ascents during the Peninsula Campaign and the fact that George’s brother Thomas was a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor. Yet there are several mistakes and errors, including misnaming P.G.T. Beauregard. Furthermore, Longacre’s thorough detailing of military maneuvers and battles slows the narrative.

A book that should appeal to military history enthusiasts, but those seeking a more standard biography should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3319-0

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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