A welcome piece of military history, adroitly balancing racism and legal questions in one story.



An Emmy-winning journalist sets the record straight about the death of an Italian POW during WWII.

First-time author Hamann came across the name Guglielmo Olivotto when he discovered a unique grave featuring a broken Roman column, one of several “unusual objects,” he was told, on the grounds of a former Army base in Seattle’s Discovery Park. The headstone nagged at the author, who eventually learned that Olivotto had been murdered during a riot that led to one of the biggest courts-martial in the history of the Army. In August 1944, after weeks of American soldiers’ grumbling about how the Italians were being mollycoddled, a throng of black enlisted men attacked some of the 200 Italian prisoners being held at the base. Most of the rioters and Italians suffered scrapes and bruises. Olivotto, however, was found dead—hanging from a cable on the base’s obstacle course, as if he had been lynched. Hamann cites declassified documents, court transcripts and interviews to show how the segregated Army compromised justice so that black soldiers were pinned to the crime, leaving possible white suspects overlooked. Particularly damning is the way military police performed during and after the riot. Their main goal, Hamann suggests, was to forestall more trouble, rather than collect evidence that might solve a murder involving African-Americans and a captured enemy soldier. In a welcome addition to military history, the author sheds light on the circumstances of Italian POWs in the United States (many of whom enjoyed confinement because they never wanted to serve in Mussolini's army in the first place), but the courtroom drama that makes up much of the second half reads less easily. Even so, Hamann does an excellent job of humanizing the two opposing lawyers in the case, including Leon Jaworski, who later became a confidant of Lyndon Johnson’s, though readers may feel tested by the seemingly endless parade of names and details resulting from Hamann’s meticulous research.

A welcome piece of military history, adroitly balancing racism and legal questions in one story.

Pub Date: April 29, 2005

ISBN: 1-56512-394-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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