A worthy companion to Jay Monahan’s Custer, Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star and other standard studies of the...

A TERRIBLE GLORY

CUSTER AND THE LITTLE BIGHORN--THE LAST GREAT BATTLE OF THE AMERICAN WEST

Comprehensive account of George Custer’s career.

Dallas-based literary agent Donovan does much kind service to Custer, who has long been without champions. We think of Custer as vainglorious and foolhardy, thanks in great measure to Arthur Penn’s 1970 film Little Big Man; only a vain man would have dressed like a longhaired gypsy dandy and gone galloping off to fight every Indian in the West, right? Donovan finds the upside: Custer dressed colorfully and wore his hair long in the interest of conspicuousness, reasoning that “if his men saw their commanding officer share the danger, they would fight even harder.” He always made a point to be at the head of the action, golden locks and bright red scarf gleaming. There was a reason that Custer was the youngest general in the Union Army. At places such as Gettysburg, he distinguished himself by brave action against heavy odds, and his Michigan horsemen “quickly earned a reputation as the best brigade in the cavalry corps.” Yet something seems to have happened to Custer out West. He shared the general disdain of the white soldiers for their Indian opponents, hubris that cost a young captain named William Fetterman and his men their lives and set in motion the events that would culminate in Little Bighorn—and later, Wounded Knee. But Donovan is no agenda-laden, blind defender of Custer; he carefully notes the results of the inquiry that followed the famed slaughter, when Custer’s commanding general damned him for “negligence and outright insubordination.” His thoroughgoing account lends considerable humanity to all involved, from the Hunkpapa warrior Rain-in-the-Face to the ordinary privates who died with Custer on that hot June day in Montana.

A worthy companion to Jay Monahan’s Custer, Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star and other standard studies of the famed cavalryman.

Pub Date: March 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-15578-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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