An entertaining study of a quirky historical episode.



Light social history about rainmaking in the arid American West.

Anyone who’s seen 110 Degrees in the Shade is already familiar with the story of Charles Hatfield. In the early 20th century, settlers west of the Mississippi were desperate for more water. Hatfield was the most famous of the dozens of scientists and charlatans who insisted they could create rain. He wasn’t, suggests Jenkins (Colonel Cody and the Flying Cathedral, 2000, etc.), a total fraud. His musing about rainmaking began in his mother’s kitchen, as he observed the interaction between steam and water vapor from a pot and a stove. Couldn’t he engineer some chemical version of steam, and bring down rain from the clouds? However unsound his science, Hatfield had early successes making rain in southern California in 1904. He gained fans (including not a few infatuated ladies) and financial backers, but he also earned enemies who thought his promises were hogwash; Willis More, head of the U.S. Weather Bureau, lambasted Hatfield at every opportunity. In 1915, San Diego, which badly needed rain, secured Hatfield’s services. After Hatfield’s machinations, the city definitely got rain—the worst storm in the history of the region, a storm that almost destroyed it. The “landscape,” writes Jenkins, who spends almost 100 pages detailing the inundation, was “liquidized.” (The author seems fond of alliteration: we also read about a “delta of debris” and a “fortnight of frustration.”) The storm simply made Hatfield more controversial and more famous. Newspapers ate him up with a spoon. But as dams came to the West, the demand for rainmakers, even legendary Charlie, declined. By the late 1930s, Hatfield was making his living selling sewing machines and real estate. Did he actually cause all that rain in San Diego? Maybe, and maybe not, says Jenkins: “We can never know.”

An entertaining study of a quirky historical episode.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-56025-675-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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