Gripping social history and a feast for aficionados of cops-and-robbers stories, both real and imagined.

L.A. NOIR

THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA’S MOST SEDUCTIVE CITY

Midcentury L.A., confidential and otherwise.

Untangling the web of politics and crime that defined Los Angeles as a locus of “noir” mystique, Governing magazine writer Buntin traces the careers of two of the city’s most storied combatants—Police Chief William Parker and gangster Mickey Cohen. Parker was a rigid autocrat famous for his incorruptibility, while Cohen emerges here as a charming, eccentric operator whose criminal ways often seem like merely an expression of excessively high spirits. Parker rose steadily through the ranks of the hopelessly corrupt LAPD through sheer will. He eventually revolutionized the department, turning it, and himself, into a formidable political power in its own right, rather than acting as a lackey for the entrenched and mutual interests of local business and organized crime. Cohen became king of the rackets after impressing the big boys with his chutzpah and ruthlessness. The men hated each other, and the pursuit of their divergent agendas would do much to shape Los Angeles in the public imagination. The narrative is a roller-coaster ride full of reversals, as Parker triumphed in shoring up the effectiveness of his force and containing the activities of the underworld, only to falter as toxic race relations led to such disasters as the Zoot Suit riots and the burning of Watts. Cohen lived high on the hog and enjoyed the affection of the media and public, until tax evasion—he had escaped numerous murder charges—landed him in Alcatraz, where he was crippled in an attack by a deranged fellow inmate. The colorful cast of characters intersecting with Parker and Cohen include old-school mobster Bugsy Siegel, evangelist Billy Graham and screenwriter Ben Hecht (both, bizarrely, friends of Cohen), Sammy Davis Jr., burlesque legend Candy Barr, J. Edgar Hoover, Lana Turner and Malcolm X.

Gripping social history and a feast for aficionados of cops-and-robbers stories, both real and imagined.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-35207-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

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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