A victim's damning, if querulously overstated, case against the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC), which, in its pursuit of Iran-contra malefactors, seems to be as concerned with scalps as with justice. Brimming with resentment, Abrams offers a one-sided first- person version of his bruising encounter with the OIC. Appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs in 1985, Abrams became heir to a number of ongoing initiatives, one of which involved toppling Nicaragua's Sandinistas. He left office with the Reagan Administration and heard nothing from Lawrence Walsh (head of the OIC) or his subordinates until the summer of 1991, a few months before the statute of limitations would have precluded any indictments. In the meantime, the convictions of high-profile principals like Oliver North had been reversed on appeal, and, Abrams argues, the heat was on the OIC to justify its existence. Special prosecutors eventually apprised the author that they could charge him with a welter of felonies. Caught on some inconsistencies in his testimony to Congress and faced with the prospect of a seven-figure legal-defense bill, Abrams decided to plead guilty to a couple of misdemeanors that amounted to withholding information from lawmakers (e.g., on a $10-million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei that never reached the contras). In recounting his ordeal, Abrams makes some valid points- -notably on the OIC's lack of accountability, its predilection for encouraging lower-echelon targets to rat out their superiors, and its Kafkaesque capacity to criminalize policy/political differences between the executive and legislative branches of government—but he does so with an air of injured, ``why-me?'' innocence that promises to irritate his supporters and to confirm the suspicions of partisan adversaries. While there's no question that Abrams suffered much at the heavy hands of the OIC, his cause is not well served with vintage whine.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-900167-6

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1992

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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