Reader-friendly, informative reporting—history that reads like a novel.

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THE LONGEST NIGHT

THE BOMBING OF LONDON ON MAY 10, 1941

An emotionally stirring account of the single most devastating attack on London during the Blitz.

Mortimer offers an engaging, down-to-the-minute retelling of May 10–11, 1941, the night hundreds of German warplanes bombed London relentlessly, threatening Britain’s standing in the war. Part military history, part chronicle of survivors’ memories and part moving tribute to London, the result is reminiscent of Richard Collier’s The City That Would Not Die (1960), but is a captivating and important contribution in its own right. True to his journalistic roots, Mortimer opens by introducing a large cast of characters, most of whom he personally interviewed. The experiences of those who were in and around London that fateful night drive the narrative. Readers with some prior understanding of basic events and terminology of the war may have a slight advantage, though Mortimer offers great insight into the intricacies of World War II London, its population, physical layout, architecture and history, as well as the complexities of German and British warplanes and weaponry of the period. Occasional missteps (a Luftwaffe “major raid” is defined only on the final page, for example) do nothing to diminish the heartfelt testimony of survivors who, when paired with Mortimer’s dramatic renderings of what Londoners and German and British military men experienced, make for compelling non-fiction. Emphasis is placed on how fear, confusion and devastation were offset by the unprecedented ways in which Londoners came together to offer assistance. Mortimer’s focus is on people, but some of the most emotionally wrenching passages concern not the terrible loss of life, but the destruction of some of London’s most beloved architectural and historical treasures.

Reader-friendly, informative reporting—history that reads like a novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-425-20557-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

BERLIN AIRLIFT

THE SALVATION OF A CITY

Detailed, nuts-and-bolts exploration of the 1948-9 Berlin airlift, first major crisis of the new Cold War.

British military historians Sutherland and Canwell begin at the close of World War II, when the Red Army occupied the decimated, starved city. Germany was divided into four zones after its surrender in May 1945, and the Soviets jealously guarded access to Berlin, which lay within their zone but was divided among all four Allies. Food and fuel were urgently needed for the city’s nearly three million residents, but the Russians did not allow supplies to move through their zone into West Berlin. As Soviet-sponsored communist parties seized power in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Truman Doctrine guaranteed U.S. support for democracies that resisted. When the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe was set forth in July 1947, the Iron Curtain had already fallen, and divided, vulnerable Berlin came under increasingly restrictive Soviet measures. The crisis was precipitated by the introduction on June 21, 1948, of the Deutsche Mark in Berlin’s three Western sectors. In response, the Soviets declared they would no longer supply food to the German civilian population in those sectors. The authors credit British Air Commodore Rex Waite (rather than American General Lucius D. Clay) with drafting the plan for an airlift (dubbed Operation Vittles) to sustain the population and the garrisons. Using three airfields from June 1948 to June 1949, the Western powers airlifted nearly two million tons of food and supplies, effectively undermining the Soviets and keeping West Berliners from starving. The authors make a good use of primary documents to portray the broad political machinations of the time, yet neglect to offer voices from the civilian eyewitnesses. A final chapter, “Legacy of the Airlift,” covers such subsequent events as the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989.

A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58980-550-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

EMPIRE OF SHADOWS

THE EPIC STORY OF YELLOWSTONE

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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