Vivid account of the Wehrmacht's final offensive, by Astor (The Last Nazi, 1985, etc.). Exhaustively researched, much of it narrated by participants, this is a chronicle in the style of the new military history, conveying an experience as well as a report on a military action. The immediacy and clarity of enlisted men's accounts form the core reality here, giving a palpable sense of infantry and tank warfare. Comparisons with George Feifer's Tennozan (p. 368) are inevitable, but Astor is less culturally concerned, more closely focused on this final, deadly spasm of Hitler's inspiration. The German leadership is unforgettable—flamboyant Otto Skorzeny (who arranged for Germans to masquerade as Americans); alcoholic Sepp Deitrich, Hitler's old buddy, now an incompetent general; and, above all, the cunning, sinister SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, already associated with Russian front atrocities. Astor begins with a grim military comedy of errors: Deitrich's refusal to supplement radios with carrier pigeons, German soldiers who can't speak English, and a nightmare parachute drop in a gale. The Allies oblige, refusing to believe tanks can be used in the Ardennes, failing to grasp the reality when it's upon them, losing crucial information and bickering. The progress of Kampfgruppe Peiper is a black thread of terror running through the narrative. As its tanks grind forward, tiny US units sacrifice themselves. A cook covers the retreat of his unit with a machine gun, then is captured and killed; the SS massacres inconvenient prisoners; Pfc. Mel Biddle is sent on a mission during which he kills 17 Germans and takes out a machine gun with his M-1. Eventually, the 101st Airborne holes up in Bastogne and will not be dislodged, and Kampfgruppe Peiper meets a flaming GîtterdÑmmerung, its men escaping on foot in the snow. Strong narrative, sound history, and a good read. (Photos and maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 27, 1992

ISBN: 1-55611-281-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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



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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