A welcome contribution, full of untold stories, to the literature of WWII.



A fine tale of great and not-so-great escapes, along with the ordinary business of surviving confinement in Hitler’s stalags in the final months of WWII.

The German stalag—or POW camp—system was never quite the well-oiled machine of lore; staffed by third-tier officers and men largely unfit for other kinds of military service, it was so badly organized and run that hundreds of prisoners were able to escape, others to engage in acts of sabotage and counterintelligence. After the Russian front began to collapse, however, and camps were moved farther west, Hitler ordered sweeping changes—including the imposition of a command structure headed by the much-feared SS and stricter punishments for captured escapees. Thousands of Allied prisoners, most of them airmen, died during forced marches from the east in one of the coldest winters on record; thousands more died as a result of starvation or disease. Still, write Britons Nichol (himself a POW during the Gulf War) and Rennell (Last Days of Glory, 2001, etc.), prisoner morale remained high, dampened only by the failure of mail from home to arrive or the occasional news of labor strikes on the home front (“Prisoners were enraged by such news, and many were doubtful that the spirit of the American people was high enough to win the war”); a mark of this good cheer were the ceaseless efforts of prisoners to escape, many successfully, some spectacularly so. Nichol and Rennell offer a superb account of prison life, enriched by numerous first-person accounts, and point to some of the curiosities and ironies of camp life—among them efforts by the SS general in charge of the camp system to ingratiate himself to senior Allied officers, recognizing that the war was going against Germany, and the evil ways of the bean-counters back home, who deducted wages whenever a prisoner escaped, reckoning that only in confinement was a prisoner “entitled to one dollar for every day that he had been a captive of the enemy—to be paid as a lump sum when he got home.”

A welcome contribution, full of untold stories, to the literature of WWII.

Pub Date: June 2, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03212-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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