Useful reading for students of Cold War history and modern technology.




A memoir of a life spent developing a high-tech silent service.

Craven, the descendant of a long line of naval officers, saw service as a seaman during WWII, in the course of which he developed the conviction that the only way for the US to avoid future bloodshed was to become the undisputed toughest kid on the block. As Chief Scientist of the Navy’s Special Projects Office from 1958 to 1970, he had plenty of opportunity to develop weaponry that gave the enemy (in his time, the Soviet Union) pause—notably the Polaris missile system (which, he hints, kept the Cuban Missile Crisis from boiling over into full-out war). As he discusses the baffling array of death-dealing technology that emerged from his office, Craven sometimes forgets that his audience may not share his expertise, but no matter; fans of Tom Clancy (whose Hunt for Red October was inspired by real-life events in which Craven took part) will get a charge out of his adventures all the same, especially when reading his often funny sketches of the Soviet spies who followed him around. At the dramatic heart of his story lies a little-known episode in Cold War history: An American long-range bomber collided with a refueling plane over Spain and dropped its payload of nuclear weaponry on and near a small fishing village. Craven’s account of the delicate salvage operation (which ended happily and made a fortune for a fisherman who helped locate one of the bombs out at sea) develops with nicely rendered tension. His prose is a little ham-fisted, but he makes up for it with ample anecdotes about the strange internal politics of the military-industrial complex—and he even explains why government-issue toilet seats cost so much.

Useful reading for students of Cold War history and modern technology.

Pub Date: April 4, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-87213-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.


Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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