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MIMI AND TOUTOU’S BIG ADVENTURE

THE BIZARRE BATTLE OF LAKE TANGANYIKA

Pleasant and engaging—as historical document, travel journal and film footnote.

A compact history of a little-known WWI battle that inspired a well-known film.

The battle for Lake Tanganyika may not be as thoroughly covered by historians as the battle of Verdun, but seizing control of the lake was strategically important to Great Britain, as Foden (the Whitbread Award–winning The Last King of Scotland, 1998, etc.) shows in this meticulous, engaging and gracefully written account. In control of Lake Tanganyika, the Germans were poised to overrun the Belgians, who had entered the war as allies of Britain. As Britain’s great naval leaders were otherwise engaged, the Admiralty decided in 1915 to dispatch the clumsy, eccentric and egomaniacal Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Spicer-Simson to rout the Germans. Desperate to become a hero—but practical enough to wear a skirt in the African jungle heat—Spicer-Simson led a motley crew that hauled two 40-foot mahogany gunboats (the Mimi and the Toutou) overland, then sailed them up the darkest Congo. Battling disease-carrying insects, boat-rattling hippopotami and natives craving “food that once talked,” the men witnessed an Africa that no longer exists, a forbidding and enticing place Foden describes in vivid detail. Eventually, the boats destroyed the Graf von Götzen, the mighty German ship commanding the lake. Spicer-Simson backed off from challenging one other German ship, but that didn’t preclude his rising to mythical status when he returned home. If threads of this adventure sound familiar, it’s because they eventually became the woof of C.S. Forester’s 1935 novel and John Huston’s 1951 film The African Queen. In an epilogue, Foden follows the story’s journey to the depths of the Congo.

Pleasant and engaging—as historical document, travel journal and film footnote.

Pub Date: April 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4157-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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