A good choice for readers interested in the Cold War, the space race, and the 1960s American political landscape.

MERCURY RISING

JOHN GLENN, JOHN KENNEDY, AND THE NEW BATTLEGROUND OF THE COLD WAR

A gripping, exhaustively detailed chronicle of America’s initial sprint in the space race seen through the eyes of the first American to orbit the Earth.

Feb. 20, 1962, was the climax of John Glenn’s storied career as a decorated Marine fighter pilot, astronaut, and, later, senator from Ohio. His journey to the Friendship 7 spacecraft from New Concord—“a town that defined him but threatened to trap him”—serves an apt representation of the mythic American dream. In his latest, historian Shesol, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, relates how Glenn got there by navigating the politics of a young world power populated by experienced generals (Dwight Eisenhower), political operators (Lyndon Johnson), young Turks (the Kennedys), and cautious NASA administrators (T. Keith Glennan and James Webb) and bureaucrats caught up in the Cold War and a space race that was often less about science than “the outward projection of power” and “a reflection of the American character.” Similar to his first two books, Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade (1998) and Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (2010), this one is steeped in historical detail that enlivens the major politicians and the first cohort of NASA astronauts, clearly illustrating how they all both shaped and responded to an American society in transition. The author makes a compelling case that Glenn was a central figure in this transition, noting how his combination of arrogance, drive, and down-home folksiness made him a “flesh-and-blood” example of American ideals. Though Shesol could have tightened the narrative by shaving around 100 pages, this is a welcome retelling of a significant piece of the Cold War saga and the opening of the space frontier.

A good choice for readers interested in the Cold War, the space race, and the 1960s American political landscape.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00324-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

MY TRAVELS WITH MRS. KENNEDY

A follow-up to the bestselling Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

Teaming up again with his co-author (now wife) on previous books, Hill, a distinguished former Secret Service agent, remembers his days traveling the world as Jacqueline Kennedy’s trusted bodyguard. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Hill received a medal for valor in protecting the president and his wife, Jackie, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets. Later, the medal vanished along with photos of the author's travels with Mrs. Kennedy as a Secret Service bodyguard. Hill recounts how his search for an old award he never wanted yielded an even greater treasure: forgotten images of his globe-trotting adventures with the first lady. The photographs—some in color, some in black and white—immediately transported the bewitched author back to the glittering heyday of Camelot. Images of Jackie in Paris brought memories of the president’s first major state excursion to France, in 1961, where the otherwise very private first lady was “the center of all attention.” Numerous other diplomatic trips followed—to England, Greece, India, Pakistan, and across South America. Everything Jackie did, from visiting ruined temples to having lunch with Queen Elizabeth, was headline news. Hill dutifully protected her from gawkers and paparazzi not only on public occasions, but also more private ones such as family retreats to the Amalfi Coast and the Kennedys’ country home in Middleburg, Virginia. In three short years, the never-romantic bond between the two deepened to a place “beyond friendship” in which “we could communicate with each other with a look or a nod….She knew that I would do whatever she asked—whether it was part of my job as a Secret Service agent or not.” Replete with unseen private photos and anecdotes of a singular relationship, the book will appeal mostly to American historians but also anyone interested in the private world inhabited by one of the most beguiling but enigmatic first ladies in American history.

A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982181-11-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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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