A sturdy but not entirely fresh study for readers interested in the fate of Western water and in the settlement of the West...

THE PROMISE OF THE GRAND CANYON

JOHN WESLEY POWELL'S PERILOUS JOURNEY AND HIS VISION FOR THE AMERICAN WEST

From adventure writer Ross (Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed, 2014, etc.), a new biography of a well-known figure in the history of Western exploration.

John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) was famous in his day as the first Anglo explorer to travel the length of the Colorado River, in two expeditions, and explore the Grand Canyon. His voyages down that wild watercourse are the stuff of legend, especially inasmuch as he managed to scale the rock walls of the canyon with only one arm, having lost the other at the Battle of Shiloh. Less well known is his later career as a scientist. He served as the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey and argued that the federal distribution of homestead land “might well work in Wisconsin or Illinois” but was inappropriate to the arid West, where a tract near water was more fittingly 80 acres and one without it 2,560 acres. Powell’s reports to Congress on the arid lands, containing a daring proposal to encourage self-governance organized by watersheds rather than the straight lines of surveyors, were fervently opposed and suppressed, for he revealed the limits the land placed on growth. The author finds this a useful parable for a time of climate change and lessening availability of water in the West, as Powell’s Colorado becomes the nation’s “most contested and controlled river, every single drop of it allocated to serve more than 36 million people in seven states.” Readers who know of Powell are likely to be sympathetic to Ross’ arguments, but much of the main thrust of his book can be found in Donald Worster’s A River Running West (2000) and Wallace Stegner’s somewhat dated but still iconic Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (1954). Still, Ross’ view through the lens of the unfolding crisis lends Powell and his arguments new relevance.

A sturdy but not entirely fresh study for readers interested in the fate of Western water and in the settlement of the West and a good place to start learning about a key figure.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42987-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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