Sketchy but readable: somewhat worthwhile in a time of renewed strife between the Western and Islamic spheres.

THE CRUSADES

A HISTORY

A capable if undramatic overview of the four-century war between medieval Christianity and Islam.

Hindley, an English writer of popular histories, is working in a crowded field dominated largely by compatriots such as Steven Runciman, whose work on the Crusades is indispensable. This one is not, but Hindley does a generally competent job in outlining the historical currents that were flowing through Western Europe when the good knights of France decided that the liberation of the Holy Land from its Arab conquerors would be a worthy pursuit. Their cross-blazoned banners, whence crusade, occasioned a shift in meaning of the Arabic word jihad, which, Hindley writes, had formerly meant “the effort to advance Islam in one’s own life by striving for religious virtue,” but in the 11th century, as today, came to denote striving in warfare to free the world of infidels—and particularly the “Franks,” as the warriors of Islam called all Europeans, mostly because the crusading enterprise was dominated by French and Anglo-Norman lords such as Robert Giscard and Richard Lionheart. The foot soldiers of the Crusades, Hindley writes, made up of elements from many nations, were well aware of the differences among themselves: the French considered themselves to be superior, the Germans disliked the French, the Danes were happy to keep to themselves and drink themselves silly, and “everybody despised the wily, schismatic Greeks.” The attendant disunity, as much as disease and Saladin’s hard-fighting soldiers, caused many a disastrous defeat. Usefully, Hindley extends his discussion of the Crusades to embrace holy war against not just Muslims, but also the non-Christian peoples of the Baltic, who rightly terrified the crusaders: “Where Catholic Christendom burnt its heretics,” he cheerily observes, “the pagan Lithuanians burnt their prisoners of war on ritual pyres.”

Sketchy but readable: somewhat worthwhile in a time of renewed strife between the Western and Islamic spheres.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1105-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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