The author capably records the fading echoes of all the gaiety and gunfire, but he tends to attribute more cultural...

Pomerantz (Communication/Stanford Univ.; Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era, 2005, etc.) serves up intertwining Depression-era stories of bridge, high society and murder.

In addition to providing a biography of two of the card game’s great talents and popularizers, Ely and Josephine Culbertson, the author chronicles the emergence of bridge and examines a sensational bridge-related murder trial in Kansas City. Pomerantz looks back at the shooting of Jack Bennett, who, over a bridge table, slapped his wife, Myrtle, a few times. She promptly got a gun and shot him, then was acquitted in an O.J. Simpson–like murder trial in 1931 that featured a frenzied media and a dramatic defense attorney, former U.S. Senator James A. Reed, a fiery old-school orator. The author interweaves the tale of the Culbertsons, especially of Ely, a full-fledged egomaniac with a gift for self-promotion. Culbertson challenged and defeated experts on both sides of the Atlantic, and the press enthusiastically covered the encounters. But he eventually became too eccentric even for wife Jo; they divorced and he remarried—and divorced again. All the while he clung tenaciously to his bridge reputation and was not displaced until the emergence of new guru Charles Goren in the ’40s. Pomerantz supplies sufficient bridge history for the uninitiated and includes explanations and a glossary. In the final chapters, Pomerantz appears in the first person, telling us what happened to everyone. He finds and fires a gun like the death weapon, interviews people who knew the principals and walks around the apartment where the shooting occurred. Unfortunately, cliché occasionally creeps into the generally lively text—“It brought chills,” he writes of his murder-scene visit.

The author capably records the fading echoes of all the gaiety and gunfire, but he tends to attribute more cultural consequence to these events than they merit.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5162-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


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


"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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