A lucid, well-written work of regional history that opens necessary conversation and has broader implications—essential for...



A searching study of one of the American West’s signature massacres, distinguished by the multiethnic nature of its perpetrators and the legal case that ensued.

As Jacoby (History/Brown Univ.; Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation, 2001) observes, the so-called Camp Grant Massacre, which took place on April 30, 1871, outside of Tucson, “is neither the biggest nor the best known of the flurry of brutal massacres of American Indians that occurred during the closing decades of the nineteenth century.” What sets the slaughter apart was not its target—Apaches who, though accustomed to being killed on sight, had nonetheless come to a kind of accommodation with the U.S. government—but its planners, a group of Anglos, Mexicans and Mexican Americans who had various commercial and ideological reasons for wishing the Apaches dead. The bulk of the force, though, was made up of other Indians, O’odham people who called the Apache simply ’O:b, “the enemy.” Jacoby skillfully examines the mixed makeup and motivations of this force, walking the thin line between history and legend and the thinner line between sympathy and objectivity. The perpetrators of the massacre, which cost the lives of 150 Apaches, most of them women and children, earned renown nationally in a time of social Darwinist campaigns to deracinate Indians. Though tried for murder, they were swiftly acquitted. Jacoby seeks to assign authorship and responsibility in a time of endemic violence in the outback, but of putative civilization-building in the nearby cities. Longtime Southwesterners remember the massacre today, but it seldom figures in the history texts and in conversation, learned or otherwise. As Jacoby notes, even the descendants of the Apache victims seldom mention it, “out of respect for the…custom of not discussing issues that might exacerbate others’ despair.”

A lucid, well-written work of regional history that opens necessary conversation and has broader implications—essential for students of the American West.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-193-6

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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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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