A splendid distillation of nuclear history, and just the thing for students of the modern age.



Did we ever learn to love the bomb? Perhaps not, this opinionated and lively history shows.

Historian DeGroot (Modern History/Univ. of St. Andrews) opens, fittingly, with a funeral, a “row of tiny coffins” commemorating the deaths of eighteen small children killed by a German Gotha bomber. The children weren’t meant to be sacrificed, of course, but the German bomb had been dropped on London in 1917 with the intent of killing someone, and whether civilian or military didn’t much matter. Fast-forward to Hiroshima, with the same effect: “The Americans didn’t intend to hit a hospital, but they did intend to kill people.” So it was with the postwar bomb: the world knew that civilian, child, innocent, and suchlike categories no longer mattered, and if the bomb was not going to adjust for us, we were going to have to adjust for the bomb. DeGroot writes with a smartly revisionist, sometimes acid sensibility: Werner Heisenberg may have protested that he worked for the Nazis only unwillingly, but if “he only pretended to collaborate, he did so with great enthusiasm.” Albert Einstein was a poster boy for the bomb, but the real engine behind it was Leo Szilard. Ironically enough, Japan had a nuclear-weapons program of its own; after Hiroshima, the General Staff told the nation’s leading atomic scientist that the military would try to hold out for six months if he could build a bomb to use against the Americans in that amount of time. Nagasaki was an accident, the victim of a too-stiff Japanese resistance over the intended target. In the postwar era, Britain pushed to develop a bomb because it was cheaper than maintaining a massive army, a cousin of thought to Robert McNamara’s theory of peace through mutually assured destruction. And so on over seven decades, in a narrative characterized by an odd amiability and even hopefulness—even though, as DeGroot notes, the shadow of the bomb falls on us still.

A splendid distillation of nuclear history, and just the thing for students of the modern age.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-674-01724-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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

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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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