Scholarly but accessible and of much interest to those with an eye on geopolitical matters.



Sober-minded history of a nation that has existed in its present form for less than a century, one “predestined to descend into chaos and civil war.”

What is Syria? Like so many political entities in the Middle East, it is the product of lines on colonial maps drawn according to the tenets of division and conquest. However, warns London-based Arabist and attorney McHugo (A Concise History of the Arabs, 2013), it would be a mistake to think that simply redrawing the map could redress that country’s terrible problems, one of them being the fact that some 40 percent of the population has been displaced to some degree or another in the last three years of civil war. Repartitioning the country, he warns, carries numerous drawbacks: “This is an outbreak of the old Western disease of drawing pretty lines on maps and then expecting the peoples of Greater Syria to step neatly into the zones marked with the particular color chosen for them.” Those colors are widely varied, for Syria contains numerous kinds of people: Christians and Muslims in various strains, Jews and Zoroastrians, Kurds and Palestinians, and many more. McHugo charts the slowly building tragedy that has set these peoples far apart, beginning when the country’s first ruler “recognized no distinctions between the three monotheistic religions, and that all were equal and entitled to the same rights and subject to the same duties.” Sadly, that ecumenical view disappeared with the rise of Ba’ath party nationalism, which blended elements of Arab revanchism and Western socialism in an uneasy alliance that would yield the likes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both of which played proxy roles in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and continue to play roles in the struggle between the West and Russia today.

Scholarly but accessible and of much interest to those with an eye on geopolitical matters.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62097-045-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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