An indispensable book for anyone interested in naval history and a great read for everyone else.



In his American debut, British naval historian Ballantyne (Bismarck: 24 Hours to Doom, 2016, etc.) tells the story of undersea warfare entertainingly, without skimping on technical details.

The first hint of a vessel that could travel below the surface was in a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci. During the European wars of the 17th and 18th centuries, many tried to build a submarine, but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that a practical sub took to the waters: the Confederate submersible Hunley, which sunk a Union sloop in 1864. From that point, a number of designs were developed, and the modern submarine began to take shape, though many naval officers believed the future lay with the battleship. It was in Germany that the submarine became what it is today. The author chronicles the exploits of German U-boats in World War I and the measures taken to limit their depredations on enemy naval and merchant vessels. By the end of the war, every major combatant was deploying a submarine fleet, though not all were equally adept. The sub resumed its role in World War II, with both Germany and the U.S. making particularly effective use of the “wolf pack” strategy of ganging up on convoys. Ballantyne brings the story up to the present with a look at the role of missile-launching nuclear submarines in the Cold War and after. In the final pages, he speculates on whether a new balance can emerge between Russia and the West and whether other states will use subs to upset the uneasy balance. Much of the appeal of the book lies in the stories of submariners and their feats, such as the Japanese aviator who took off from a sub and fire-bombed an Oregon forest. Years later, he returned to apologize—and was made a citizen of the town he endangered. The book is full of such entertaining and moving stories, especially of the British submariners.

An indispensable book for anyone interested in naval history and a great read for everyone else.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-877-8

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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