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“WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU UP TO, MR. PRESIDENT?”

JIMMY CARTER, AMERICA’S “MALAISE,” AND THE SPEECH THAT SHOULD HAVE CHANGED THE COUNTRY

A galloping history full of interesting characters and significant moments.

Mattson (Contemporary History/Ohio Univ.; Rebels All!: A Short History of the Conservative Mind in Postwar America, 2008, etc.) presents a bright snapshot of a nation in flux.

The election of squeaky-clean Jimmy Carter in 1976 was in part a reflection of America’s desire to shed the overwhelming feelings of distrust and negativity that surrounded Watergate and Vietnam. In his inaugural address, the president humbly asserted that even if we couldn’t solve all of the country’s problems, at least, “in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.” But by the summer of 1979, the country seemed to be imploding in the face of a gas crisis, resulting in long lines at the pump, trucker strikes and violence. The nation’s confidence plummeted and calls for “inspirational and innovative leadership” remained unheeded. Starting on July 4, Carter holed up at Camp David for ten days, emerging with a legendary address—delivered on national television on the evening of July 15—that would both galvanize and deeply cleave the country. Mattson, who takes his title from a July 5 headline in the New York Post, sifts through the varied media coverage of the event to isolate this crucial moment in America’s recognition of itself. In Carter’s speech—largely engineered by speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg—the president warned about a moral crisis affecting the United States, acknowledging the “wounds” of the past and the loss of faith in public institutions. He also enumerated action for the energy crisis and how the country could work together to pull out of it. Yet despite the outpouring of support for the speech, the forces of the GOP’s Moral Majority—especially Ronald Reagan—were gathering strength against Carter. Mattson fully renders the motley array of Carter’s “Georgia Mafia,” along with countless details of this turbulent era in American history.

A galloping history full of interesting characters and significant moments.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-521-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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