A true-life tale of heroes and villains, frighteningly real and marvelously told.




Biological- and chemical-weapons expert Tucker offers a chilling account of smallpox’s history, eradication, and temporary reprieve from total extinction, in virology labs in the US and Russia.

Beginning with the biological origins of smallpox, Tucker (Toxic Terror, not reviewed) traces civilization’s battle against this particularly disgusting disease. Noting its profound effect on historic events, from Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War to Cortez’s subjugation of the Aztec empire, the author goes on to document humankind’s battles against it, leading up to the World Health Organization’s triumph of eradication in the 1960s and ’70s. The author spins an engaging tale of the gritty conquerors and accidents of history that allowed smallpox to become a focus of global efforts, narrowly beating out malaria as the scourge of choice for the international community. From African deserts to Bangladeshi slums, untold thousands worked to follow chains of infection and to inoculate in the most trying conditions, many destroying their own health in the quest to break the back of the disease. As told by Tucker, it’s a stirring tale, equaled in emotional impact only by horrifying saga of what happened after the WHO Nairobi field office documented the world’s last known smallpox case in 1978. “The Kremlin cynically viewed this triumph of international public health as a military opportunity,” he writes. The Soviets had incorporated biological weapons research into their military agenda beginning in the 1930s, and it remained on their five-year plans through the 1991 dissolution of the USSR. Tucker’s in-depth report on the tremendous resources and scientific brainpower toiling away in maximum-security Russian labs is mightily compelling, and his command of the myriad international political players and details is masterful. His vivid descriptions of the disease’s symptoms, revolting and riveting in equal measure, ensure that only the most jaded reader could lay the book aside.

A true-life tale of heroes and villains, frighteningly real and marvelously told.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-830-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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