A good book for Civil War buffs.



Former Washington Post reporter and editor Meyer (Chesapeake Country, 2015, etc.) rights a wrong older than the Civil War: Five African-American men made up 25 percent of John Brown’s crew at Harpers Ferry. Until the 2009 sesquicentennial, they were never mentioned.

Fleeing escapees found a safe haven in Oberlin, Ohio, an integrated city strongly linked to Brown, whose father was a trustee of the college. The Great Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act, drove not only escaped slaves, but also fearful free African-Americans to move. A great number settled in Ontario and built a thriving community. Dangerfield Newby was a former slave who joined Brown to rescue his wife and children, still held in slavery and under threat of being sold south. Shields Green, an escaped slave from Charleston, was living with Frederick Douglass when Brown came seeking support from Douglass in his efforts to free the slaves. Douglass turned him down, but Green joined up. Brown held a meeting to set up a free government of liberated slaves in Virginia. Osborne Anderson served as secretary and was the only one joining Brown—chosen by lottery as it turned out. In Oberlin, John Copeland told his family he was leaving to teach in a colored school, and Lewis Leary just left his family to join the fight. It’s difficult to say if any of these men truly understood Brown’s intention to take the arsenal and use a slave army in a full-scale assault on federal power. Brown only had 19 men with him; in the end, he moved the date up by a week, preventing support from many who couldn’t get there in time. Fresh in the minds of the state and federal governments was Nat Turner’s murderous rebellion, and defenders struck back hard. Though the raid failed, it is widely viewed as the opening round of the American Civil War. The author delivers a well-researched, approachable narrative, but the final section, about the men’s descendants, is overkill.

A good book for Civil War buffs.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61373-571-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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