A horrific, neglected Civil War battle lives again in a demanding, nonstop assault of facts, anecdotes, vain heroics, and...

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NOT WAR BUT MURDER

COLD HARBOR 1864

Another first-class Civil War history from Furgurson (Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War, 1996, etc.), this one a blow-by-blow analysis of a gory, rarely studied battle that he believes was pivotal in determining the future strategies of Grant and Lee.

Typically overlooked for more famous engagements, the battle of Cold Harbor pitted a coarse, barely-on-the-wagon Grant (newly appointed as General of the Armies by President Lincoln) and thousands of inexperienced troops (led by quarrelsome, bickering commanders) against an ailing but indefatigable Lee and his lean-and-mean Army of Northern Virginia. After two weeks of bloody trench warfare in June 1864, Grant lost upwards of 16,000 men, earning him the “butcher” sobriquet that would follow him for the rest of his life (causing him to downplay the battle in his memoirs). For the Confederates, whose losses have been estimated as less than a third of the Union’s, Cold Harbor was what Furgurson calls “Lee’s last great victory,” during which Lee thwarted Grant’s attempt to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond and refined the strategies that would help him prolong the war into the following year. In telling the story of the battle, Furgurson begins in March, with Lee fighting a series of skirmishes as Grant enters the field with the Army of the Potomac. Grant proceeds to ruffle the feathers of that army’s imperious commander, Major General George Meade, and ignores logistical difficulties that would later cause thousands of green troops to be in the wrong places at the wrong time at Cold Harbor. Furgusorn includes depictions of the foul-mouthed, pint-sized Phil Sheridan, the recklessly brave George Armstrong Custer, the cross-dressing Confederate spy Frank Stringfellow, and numerous eyewitness accounts of “fire which no human valor could withstand.”

A horrific, neglected Civil War battle lives again in a demanding, nonstop assault of facts, anecdotes, vain heroics, and wasted lives. (15 maps, unseen)

Pub Date: June 2, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-45517-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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