The making of modern Iraq is just one small slice in this monumental, well-told story.



In an engaging history of the enormous contributions of the “land between two rivers,” Robertson (Ancient and Middle Eastern Studies/Central Michigan Univ.) is an energetic, positive booster for a remarkable people who have suffered through countless outsider incursions, especially in recent decades.

Focusing on the accomplishments of Mesopotamia and the ingenuity of its people through the ages, the author helps dispel myths and stereotypes about Iraq. Mesopotamia’s “seminal advances in human endeavor” began due to the region’s key central location between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose cyclical flooding spurred the use of irrigation by enterprising farmers, allowing the growth of grain and the development of woolen textiles for trade. The rivers facilitated important trade routes both east and west but also rendered the region vulnerable to external forces. From this “heartland of cities” rose the first writing system, cuneiform, and a bureaucratic system, celebrated by the code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. Robertson astutely notes how relatively little we know about the great Assyrian kingdom compared to ancient Rome, though some of the rulers are mentioned in the Old Testament. The vast, sophisticated city of Babylon became the capital of the Middle Eastern empire inherited by the Chaldeans, and despite its luxurious reputation, it was in Babylonian exile that the Hebrew priests, scribes, and scholars assembled the Old Testament. Overrun successively by Persians, Alexander the Great, Arab Muslims, Turks, and Mongols, Iraq was a “cradle” of world religions, from Zoroastrianism to Christianity. Robertson does a fine job delineating the brilliance of the Islamic golden age, centered at its new Abbasid capital of Baghdad, established in 762. The author also painstakingly explains the differences and rivalries among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.

The making of modern Iraq is just one small slice in this monumental, well-told story.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-85168-586-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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