Plodding narrative and slack writing plague this account of the fierce 1870s events that set the stage for the legends surrounding Billy the Kid. Hoping, in part, to discern the true character of William Henry Bonney, Jacobsen, a New Mexico assistant attorney general, relates the complicated circumstances and events comprising the Lincoln County War. Billy the Kid was one of the Regulators, a gang of ruffians (or, Jacobsen asks, were they concerned citizens?) aiding an English businessman, John Tunstall, in his feud with The House, the local political machine. Founded by Lawrence Murphy in 1873, The House was a store and a commodities brokerage that owned the only federal contracts within 200 miles. It was also a bank that protected its own monopoly, and Murphy was also the local probate judge. Tunstall, all of 24, dared to challenge The House by establishing his own ``store'' and ranch. He went into business with Alexander McSween, a former House attorney who'd been recently fired in a squabble over the estate of Murphy's late partner. Battle was joined in the courts, on the range, and in petty street fights. Both sides enlisted quasi-legal posses to harass and ``attach'' property belonging to the opposition; one such posse killed Tunstall in February 1878 while repossessing his ranch and cattle. The Regulators, working for McSween, retaliated by occupying the town of Lincoln. The ensuing Five Days' Battle, in which US Army troops supported The House, resulted in McSween's death in a hail of gunfire. Jacobsen follows the story through contemporary news accounts, court proceedings, and correspondence up to 1881, when Billy the Kid was killed by avaricious Sheriff Pat Garrett. Perceptive, methodical, and dull. (28 photos & 2 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8032-2576-8

Page Count: 470

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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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

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