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THE PROMISE OF THE GRAND CANYON

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

A sturdy but not entirely fresh study for readers interested in the fate of Western water and in the settlement of the 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: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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