A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.



An engineer and software manager who worked on both the Apollo and space shuttle flights rehearses some behind-the-scenes activity during the decades he worked with NASA.

In his debut, Clemons, now a freelance writer and speaker, begins with some background—e.g., John F. Kennedy’s vow to send Americans to the moon; the author’s youthful love of science fiction—and then proceeds chronologically through some of NASA’s great successes and failures. The author is adept at explaining complicated technical concepts by employing quotidian analogues (how a “free-return trajectory” is similar to tossing a ball), so general readers will have little trouble navigating his pages. He is also generous with praise for his colleagues, celebrating their contributions, and he offers startling reminders: NASA was still basically in the slide-rule, pre-computer era when they first landed men on the moon in July 1969. One of the most gripping segments deals with Apollo 13 (“Houston, we’ve had a problem”) and the eponymous movie, which Clemons discusses flatteringly. (He also alludes to the recent film Hidden Figures.) During the shuttle missions, the author worked on the software, a massive undertaking that he describes in rich detail; he notes how virtually impossible it is to create error-free computer code and how close to that objective the shuttle engineers came. He deals, too, with the great NASA tragedies: the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Clemons writes only briefly about his personal life—his marriage, fatherhood, divorce, and eventual change of career when he left the space program in the mid-1980s. These events and experiences are mostly breaths he takes before diving back into his primary narrative. In a lengthy appendix, he deals with some common questions and dismisses as “silly stories” the rumors that the moon landings were faked.

A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8130-5602-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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