Aside from the often corny narrative, the author provides an original contribution to the history of Civil War spying.

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DOUBLE DEATH

THE TRUE STORY OF PRYCE LEWIS, THE CIVIL WAR’S MOST DARING SPY

A well-documented biography of one of Allan Pinkerton’s detectives and a successful Union spy.

While researching his previous book, journalist Mortimer (Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation, 2009, etc.) stumbled on an unpublished memoir that provided a new look at Civil War intelligence operations. A penniless Welsh immigrant in 1856, Pryce Lewis (1828–1911) was a grocery clerk before signing on with Pinkerton in 1860 and quickly demonstrating his talents. He was investigating a murder in Tennessee during the secession uproar and had no trouble impressing the locals, so he was a logical candidate for undercover assignments. In the summer of 1861, working for a little-known Ohio general, George McClellan, Pinkerton sent Lewis into western Virginia disguised as a British tourist. He performed brilliantly, ingratiating himself with local Confederate commanders and delivering accurate information on their strength (weaker than Union estimates). Union forces quickly conquered what is now West Virginia, a victory that catapulted McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac. In early 1862, Pinkerton sent Lewis to Richmond, where he was quickly arrested and tried for treason. Reprieved a day before his scheduled execution, he spent more than a year and a half in Richmond prisons before being exchanged. Furious at Pinkerton, he resigned, spending much of the remaining war in other intelligence work. Like most wartime adventurers, life afterward became an anticlimax. His own detective agency foundered, and he descended into an impoverished old age, committing suicide in 1911. Despite access to fresh historical records, Mortimer does not wholly trust his material, larding his writing with invented dialogue and the characters’ thoughts and emotions.

Aside from the often corny narrative, the author provides an original contribution to the history of Civil War spying.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1769-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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