Sometimes more laudatory than analytical—but the enthusiasm is infectious.



Had it not been for his “right makes might” speech on Feb. 27, 1860, at New York’s Cooper Union college, Abraham Lincoln might well have remained a rustic lawyer and back-country raconteur.

One can expect such fond hyperbole from Holzer, who has edited numerous collections of Lincolniana (none reviewed)—speeches, photographs, apothegms, and gossip. Cooper Union is with him (their Web site says the old rail-splitter’s appearance there was a principal factor in “assuring him the presidency”). Holzer’s structure is chronological—we learn how the invitation arrived in October 1859 from a group of young Republicans, how the honorarium was an impressive $200 (an amount that Lincoln’s political enemies later tried to use against him), how the venue was changed at the 11th hour from Henry Ward Beecher’s Brooklyn church, how Lincoln thoroughly researched his topic (the right of the federal government to prohibit slavery in the new territories), how he crafted his address (and supervised its subsequent publication), how his tall, homely, unkempt appearance initially startled his large audience (about three-fourths capacity), how he was introduced by William Cullen Bryant. Holzer’s research is prodigious: We learn that 168 gas lamps hissed in 27 crystal chandeliers; we’re told about each stop made by the future president’s train on his subsequent speaking tour through New England; we read that the Brooklyn ferry ran every seven minutes and cost two cents. Although Holzer is an unabashed (even effervescent) advocate for Lincoln—and for the significance of this speech—he also is careful to analyze the architecture and rhetoric of the remarks and to puncture some puffballs that have grown in the yard of Lincoln legends—e.g., that right after the speech he turned down a $10,000 annual salary to work for the New York Central Railroad (the offer was never made). The entire speech—annotated—appears in an appendix.

Sometimes more laudatory than analytical—but the enthusiasm is infectious.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-2466-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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