An interesting detour into a true-crime niche.

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KILLER ON THE ROAD

VIOLENCE AND THE AMERICAN INTERSTATE

Strand (Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies, 2008, etc.) explores the connection between America’s sprawling highway system and the pathology of the murderers who have made them a killing ground.

Alternating case histories of notorious serial killers who exploited the mobility and anonymity made possible by the interstates with a history of the political and social forces that built them, the author strives to debunk popular notions of the resourceful, brilliant psychopath—most of the men profiled here were uncharismatic, not particularly bright and eerily ordinary in affect and appearance. She also tries to link the psychological effects of the lonely open road to the will to murder. Strand’s sociological assertions can seem a bit notional and flimsily argued, and the history of the politics behind the building of the interstates is unsurprisingly dry, but the case histories of the murderers and their crimes exert a queasy fascination. The author offers well-researched summations of the Charles Starkweather/Caril Fugate multi-state spree, the appalling history of the Atlanta child murders and the prostitute killings of trucker Bruce Mendenhall, among others. The chilling effect of these stories is difficult to shake. The Mendenhall material is particularly interesting in its look at truck-stop design and the trucking lifestyle and the ways in which they may actually precipitate violent behavior. The narrative is tedious for stretches, not unlike a long cross-country drive, but the grim stories of murder on the highway may do for road trips what Jaws did for surfing.

An interesting detour into a true-crime niche.

Pub Date: April 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-292-72637-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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