Good reading for the Semper Fi crowd, though civilians will likely prefer Rinker Buck’s Shane Comes Home.

AMERICAN SPARTANS

A COMBAT HISTORY FROM IWO JIMA TO IRAQ

A laudatory history of the Leathernecks, whose fortunes have taken them to every corner of the world.

Marines, as military historian Warren (Cold War, 1996, etc.) shows, don’t mind being known as men (and now women) who roam the planet breaking things and ending lives; it is dogma that there is “no better friend, no worse enemy” than a Marine. Or, as one of Warren’s interviewees remarks in a fine definition of esprit de corps, “If you kill Marines, one thing is for sure: there will be other Marines coming along soon, and they will keep coming until they find you.” After touring the ego-destroying machine that is basic training, Warren turns to the bloodiest moment in Corps history, the invasion of Iwo Jima, in which 25,000 were killed or wounded; it was this terrible fight, Warren suggests, that lent the Corps some of its self-image and certainly much of the public estimation that it has enjoyed since. The Korean War provided more opportunities to be bloodied and to bloody the enemy, a theme that would provide something of an official mantra in Vietnam the following decade; Warren quotes one Marine commander as saying, “We’ll just go on bleeding them until Hanoi wakes up to the fact that they have bled their country to the point of national disaster for generations.” It didn’t quite work out that way, as it may not be working out that way in Iraq, where Warren’s account ends. Along the way, from battle to battle, Warren considers changes in Corps doctrine and the evolution of strategy and tactics, all intended to reinforce Marine supremacy as a fighting force and its relative rarity as a service branch that has mastered the skills of every other branch to fight in just about any theater on the globe—and in no time flat.

Good reading for the Semper Fi crowd, though civilians will likely prefer Rinker Buck’s Shane Comes Home.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2005

ISBN: 0-684-87284-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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