Admirers of scrupulous entrepreneurship will find much of value in this book.

Spirited life of the 19th-century capitalist John Mackay (1831-1902).

Mackay was born in Dublin, moved with his family to the notorious Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan to flee famine at home, and saw his share of human misery. He knew how to get out of it, working endlessly, especially after his father died when he was 11. Though, as Crouch (China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight, 2012, etc.) writes, his existence years after relocating to the California gold fields “was every bit as hand-to-mouth as it had been when he stepped off the boat in San Francisco.” That would change when, in partnership with other hardworking Irish immigrants, he developed the company that would work the Comstock Lode and eventually strike the biggest gold bonanza of the era, in the bargain funding the Union Army during the Civil War and turning San Francisco into a world center of finance and commerce. Money did not change him, once it came into his hands: Mackay was a “man of few indulgences, and fewer words.” Indeed, he was notably fair to his workers, notably generous, and notably free of scandal even if he did like a good scrap from time to time. “He missed having an enemy,” Crouch writes of the mature, moneyed Mackay. “The one he’d decided to make might have been the most formidable private individual on earth—Jay Gould.” Though formulaic, Crouch’s life of Mackay adds materially to the economic history of California and Nevada. It’s a sturdy work of business history as well, full of useful pointers on how to treat people and build an enduring legacy and fortune. As Crouch notes, when Mackay died, the former tenement dweller was “one of the world’s richest men” even though he probably didn’t have even a ballpark idea of his financial worth.

Admirers of scrupulous entrepreneurship will find much of value in this book.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0819-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview