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ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENTS

EIGHT MEN WHO CHANGED AMERICA

Easily digestible political history and, Cohen’s protestations aside, interesting reading for those contemplating the...

An examination of the problems of presidential succession in American history, which in numerous cases has been anything but orderly.

William Henry Harrison lasted only a month as president before succumbing to pneumonia in 1841, thrusting his vice president, John Tyler, into office. Therewith a chain of events was set in motion that would splinter the Whigs and turn a powerful potential ally, Henry Clay, into a foe: “While Clay sought reconciliation from Harrison,” writes Cohen (Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East, 2007, etc.), “he was prepared to wage war with Tyler.” It wouldn’t be the first time the elevation of a vice president to chief office would rupture old relations, as the author documents. A more modern case was the arrival of Lyndon Johnson to the Oval Office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The Texan had been building the power he lost when leaving his post as Senate majority leader, for as second-in-command, he “lacked any real constituency inside the administration.” Other vice presidents brought into office following the demise or departure of the president were less effective, and certainly less showy: Calvin Coolidge earned the moniker “Silent Cal,” but he effectively calmed the turbulent scene surrounding the administration of his predecessor, Warren G. Harding (around whose death, Cohen hints, a cozy conspiracy theory might be built). The book is light on theory and long on anecdote, but it makes for pleasant reading for politics junkies, especially those keen on reading the political winds. Though his book is timely, the author insists that it is incorrect “to look at the timing of this book and assume it was inspired by all the impeachment talk surrounding Donald Trump.”

Easily digestible political history and, Cohen’s protestations aside, interesting reading for those contemplating the prospect of a President Mike Pence—or President Nancy Pelosi.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0982-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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