An assured, absorbing history of a disaster.



The history of an infamous shipwreck.

In 1956, in dense fog, the Italian ship Andrea Doria sank off the coast of Nantucket, within miles of its destination at the port of New York. King and Wilson (Twilight of Empire: The Tragedy of Mayerling and the End of the Habsburgs, 2017, etc.) bring to their brisk, vivid narrative the prodigious research that marked their history of another maritime disaster, Lusitania (2015). But where the 1915 attack on a British liner by a German U-boat, killing all aboard, affected international hostilities, the sinking of the Andrea Doria did not even dent the fortunes of the liner industry. Most passengers and crew were rescued; later, many took other ocean voyages. Nor did the ship itself, which boasted beauty, modernity, and a special brand of Italian glamour, have the significance of the Titanic, which seemed a microcosm of social strata and aristocratic hubris. Passengers on the Andrea Doria included a few hugely wealthy Americans, traveling first class, returning from extended European holidays, while some Italians who boarded in Naples found themselves in claustrophobic accommodations. Most, though, were simply well-off. There were several clergymen and two actresses, one the wife of Cary Grant. The authors offer lively biographies of select passengers and crew, setting the stage for the drama that occurred at 11:11 p.m. on July 25, 1956, when the Swedish liner Stockholm, with an inexperienced seaman at its helm, smashed into the Andrea Doria’s starboard side, “demolishing all in its path” and causing “a horrible cacophony of death and destruction.” The authors masterfully evoke the anguish that ensued as passengers—panicked parents and frightened children, among them—crawled across the dangerously listing ship and perilously descended into lifeboats. Within hours, several rescue vessels arrived, including another luxury liner. The authors’ recounting of the aftermath of the disaster—investigation, litigation, and the lives of many survivors—though informative, seems anticlimactic in comparison to the tense drama of the event.

An assured, absorbing history of a disaster.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19453-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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