Worthwhile, though Keegan’s dry account pales next to more immediate works, such as Rick Atkinson’s superb In the Company of...

THE IRAQ WAR

Saddam had it coming, writes distinguished historian Keegan (Winston Churchill, 2002, etc.) in this account of what he calls the “Iraq War of 2003.”

That war is still unfolding and ongoing in 2004, even though George W. Bush declared the major fighting to be over in May 2003. If Keegan’s account of the campaign is to be faulted, it is because it effectively ends at Bush’s pronouncement—and because Keegan seemingly shares Bush’s belief that Saddam had to go, even though acting on it yielded a war that Keegan characterizes as “mysterious.” For Keegan, the reasons to overthrow Saddam have global implications: “The reality of the Iraq campaign,” he writes, “is . . . a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of our world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer.” (Kim Il Jong, watch out.) Keegan lingers on the generations between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Saddam’s rise to power, and on the larger picture of regional geopolitics. As he comes nearer to the actual fighting, Keegan—who is defense editor for the London Daily Telegraph—relies on insights from theater commander Gen. Tommy Franks, who reveals that he “had never cared for the use of the term ‘shock and awe’ ” and didn’t find much to worry about in Iraq’s command-and-control structure, which crumbled the minute Allied bombs began to fall. Keegan provides insights of his own on the important role of international forces, such as the British troops in Basra, Australian special forces in the western desert, and Eastern European contingents whose leaders recognized Saddam for the Stalin wannabe that he was. He is also open in faulting what he perceives to be American missteps; the US command, for instance, ignored the pragmatic approach of the British army in the south and instead disarmed and dismantled the Iraqi army and police, idling masses of well-trained fighters who are now causing the occupiers so much grief.

Worthwhile, though Keegan’s dry account pales next to more immediate works, such as Rick Atkinson’s superb In the Company of Soldiers (p. 115).

Pub Date: May 28, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4199-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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