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LITTLE PINK HOUSE

A TRUE STORY OF DEFIANCE AND COURAGE

Capably presented account of a complex legal case that would have been even more compelling if it were shorter.

Investigative journalist Benedict (The Mormon Way of Doing Business: How Eight Western Boys Reached the Top of Corporate America, 2007, etc.) explores the drama behind a controversial Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain.

In a country where home ownership is an unofficial article of faith, the prospect of the state seizing private property to make room for a highway or school is grudgingly tolerated at best. But Benedict’s painstaking reconstruction shows the city of New London, Conn., successfully pushing the definition of “public use” to new extremes by condemning a collection of small homes in a low-income neighborhood as a means of generating more tax dollars. Once reclaimed, this prime waterfront land would become a corporate campus for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The author brings his highly technical subject to life through the passion of his central characters: two women who scarcely met but spent years locked in conflict. Goliath was Claire Gaudiani, the sexy, charismatic and manipulative president of Connecticut College who also headed the New London Development Commission. She saw the state’s power of eminent domain as the perfect tool for refashioning New London into a “hip little city.” That kind of city, the residents of the doomed Fort Trumbull neighborhood bitterly concluded, had room only for “higher income people.” The David in this unfair fight was divorced nurse Susette Kelo, owner of the eponymous Little Pink House. After personally renovating her tumbledown historic home, she was deaf to all offers and threats, telling one reporter, “they can have my house when they take the keys out of my cold, dead hands.” Local politics, public relations wars, sit-ins, Congressional hearings and a 60 Minutes feature eventually propelled the case to the Supreme Court, where the homeowners lost. “The specter of condemnation [now] hangs over all property,” wrote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her dramatic dissent from Kelo v. New London, which remains a highly controversial decision.

Capably presented account of a complex legal case that would have been even more compelling if it were shorter.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-50862-9

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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