Ellis, a free-lance writer who is part Cherokee Indian, journeys on foot from Oklahoma to his hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama—symbolically retracing the 900-mile path his ancestors took on their forced odyssey out of the southern states in 1838. It had something to do with having recently turned 40; something to do with a vision he'd had while writing a play about one Cherokee's experience of the Trail of Tears; and something to do with the importance of feeling free to walk across America without fear of death by violence. Whatever the reasons, Ellis—a former motorcycle-gang member and a modern-day romantic—buses and hitches his way to the Cherokee Nation's capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hoists his 50-pound pack, and starts off along the shoulder of a lonely rural road toward the Trail of Tears's origin and the 18,000 Cherokees' original home. Along the way, he reflects less on the fate of his ancestors who, unlike him, had to travel this route in the midst of a brutal winter and who died by the thousands of starvation, exposure, and disease than on his own renegade past in Alabama, New York, and Hollywood, and on the remarkably strange 20th-century folks he encounters along the way. From the wistful Texan who recounts the story of his abuse-ridden boyhood, to the Charles Manson look-alike charging along the road with a rock clutched in his fist, to the confused but nubile young member of a Missouri religious cult with whom Ellis falls briefly in lust—these are the inheritors of the Trail's violent legacy, and a stranger collection of people couldn't be invented. Arriving back in Fort Payne right on schedule, Ellis may have gained little new insight into his own past, but he brings home enough unusual experiences to chew on for 40 years to come. Peripatetic true confessions that hook the reader with their very ingenuousness—a genuine American tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-30448-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



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

Did you like this book?