Readers going through the illness and passing of a parent, to say nothing of true-crime buffs, will find much of value.

LAST OF THE GLADIATORS

A MEMOIR OF LOVE, REDEMPTION, AND THE MOB BY THE SON OF THE LEGENDARY TRIAL LAWYER JIMMY LAROSSA

A moving memoir of the passage through life of a father and son, each facing tremendous difficulties.

The title is hyperbolic, perhaps, but LaRossa Jr. makes a good case for the gladiatorial nature of the courtroom. His father, known as Jimmy LaRossa (1931-2014), was a criminal defense attorney who took on cases for “the most feared Mafia chiefs, assassins, counterfeiters, Orthodox Jewish money launderers, defrocked politicians of every stripe, and Arab bankers arriving in the dead of night in their private jets.” By his son’s reckoning, over a long career, Jimmy argued at nearly 1,000 jury trials and won 80% of them. He adds, “did Jimmy know where the bodies were buried? Yes, he did.” The author, who became a journalist and publisher, writes admiringly of the fact that his father, the scourge of the FBI and despiser of stool pigeons, stayed alive for all those years of engagement with mob bosses and henchmen with names like “The German” and “Wild Bill,” foot soldiers for the Colombo and Gambino families. One case found him disqualifying evidence provided by a member of a rival gang, who, Jimmy argued, “had committed murders while on the FBI’s payroll.” Eventually, however, Jimmy fell victim to pulmonary disease, prompting his son to move his father from New York to California, where Jimmy spent the last few years of his life. The author, for his part, has suffered through long bouts of mental illness, self-medicating with alcohol while diligently seeking appropriate and effective treatment. He credits taking care of his father in his last years as a lifesaver: “Until he allowed me to take charge of his life, I was as lost as a man can be.” Though the writing is sometimes clichéd—“My father was my true north, so I bought into his exuberance lock, stock, and barrel. My three siblings…had other fish to fry”—the story is affecting.

Readers going through the illness and passing of a parent, to say nothing of true-crime buffs, will find much of value.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61088-239-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

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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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