Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Larson (History/Pepperdine Univ.; A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign, 2007, etc.) sheds new light on the famous three-way race to the South Pole.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the pole, in 1912—returning in triumph to tell the tale—while British standard-bearer Robert Scott lagged behind by two weeks and perished on the ice. However, writes the author, this was not a defeat for Britain. While the Norwegian's primary aim was to “bag poles,” the primary mission of the two British adventurers, Scott and Ernest Shackleton, was to carry out scientific research. This they did admirably, laying the groundwork for modern research in such diverse fields as marine biology, meteorology and glaciology. The story is not only about science, writes Larson, but “also about power and politics, culture and commerce; hubris and heroism at the end of the Earth.” At the close of a London lecture sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society where Amundsen was the featured speaker, a cheer was raised for his dogs, “without whom,” in the words of Lord Curzon, “Captain Amundsen would never have got to the Pole.” In fact, Larson writes, the British ethos at the time centered on its imperial grandeur. The shock of defeat in the Boer war was counterbalanced by tales of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration and the three major expeditions by Scott and Shakleton, during which the explorers suffered terrible privation wintering on the ice with seal meat as their only food. A satisfying tale of adventure and exploration.


Pub Date: May 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-15408-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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