May become the preferred single-source reference to an episode whose foreign policy and military implications continue to...

THE BAY OF PIGS

A taut account of a dismal passage of the Cold War: the failed, American-sponsored attempt to invade Cuba and remove Fidel Castro from power.

Fed up with Castro’s anti-American rhetoric and alarmed at his growing ties to the Soviet Union, President Eisenhower approved a covert CIA plan to overthrow the Cuban government. By the time the Kennedy administration took office, the CIA had assembled a paramilitary force of Cuban dissidents in Guatemala and contemplated ways, with Mafia assistance, to assassinate the troublesome Cuban dictator. Fearful of the PR hit that would surely come by disbanding the brigade (leaving them free to tell their story), reluctant to appear complacent about Castro’s machinations and relying on the advice of his more experienced advisors, JFK went ahead with the plan that ended in the death of 114 and the capture of 1,179 out of the 1,511-man force that stormed the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961. With remarkable efficiency, Jones (History/Univ. of Alabama; Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War, 2003, etc.) examines all aspects of the debacle that depended on a series of unlikely contingencies: the killing of Castro, an indigenous insurrection to supplement the invaders and, crucially, air support from the U.S. military. The author apportions blame among the CIA—Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell emerge as the chief villains—the Joint Chiefs who signed off on a military plan for which they bore no responsibility, and the White House, seized by seeming Cold War imperatives and seeking plausible deniability for a scheme that, from the beginning, had little hope of disguising presidential fingerprints. The disaster left Castro more firmly in power than ever, with Kennedy privately fuming and ridiculed on the world stage, and publicly forced to assume responsibility, memorably observing that “victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

May become the preferred single-source reference to an episode whose foreign policy and military implications continue to reverberate.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-19-517383-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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