Certainly flawed, but it should appeal to readers who enjoy a good adventure and/or war story.



The story of how one man’s struggle to free his family after the fall of the Philippines in World War II inspired him to create new weapons systems that hastened the Allied victory.

Military historian Bruning (Battle for the North Atlantic: The Strategic Naval Campaign that Won World War II in Europe, 2013, etc.) tells the story of Paul Irvin “Pappy” Gunn (1899-1957), a former Navy man who rose through the ranks to become one of the hottest aviators in the service before retiring to start Philippine Air Lines. Living in Manila with his wife and children, Gunn enjoyed the good life—yet he well knew the danger of Japanese expansion. After Pearl Harbor, he laid plans to get them to safety using his company’s planes. But the situation deteriorated faster than anyone expected, and Gunn was back in the war effort, using the airline’s planes to move Army personnel and equipment. When Manila fell, he was on a long-distance mission, too far away to save his family, who went into a prison camp. Gunn’s attempts to find a way back to rescue them never got off the ground; instead, he turned to tinkering on planes. His major coup was converting the B-25 medium bomber into a gunship, a new weapon that turned the tide against the Japanese navy. Bruning also follows the family’s grueling experiences in the prison. This is a compelling story with strong characters and a wealth of fascinating incidents, set against some of the fiercest action of the war. However, the author spends too much time going into bits of back story; while these passages fill in the portrait of Gunn, they slow down the flow of the main story. Bruning’s writing is workmanlike but never really smooth, and he sometimes neglects the larger context. Fortunately, the subject matter is strong enough, on the whole, to carry readers along.

Certainly flawed, but it should appeal to readers who enjoy a good adventure and/or war story.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33940-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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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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