A thoughtfully observed travel memoir and history.



A filmmaker and writer tells the story of the historical figures and ordinary people who have attempted to “control, adapt to, or explore” the largely wild and untamed Andes cordillera.

MacQuarrie’s (The Last Days of the Incas, 2007, etc.) love affair with South America began during boyhood when he read the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though the tales themselves concerned an imaginary world at the center of the Earth, the images—of “half-naked tribes and powerful beasts…[and] rich, luxuriant vegetation, beautiful women”—stayed with him and became the unconscious lodestar toward which he gravitated as an adult traveler. In this book, MacQuarrie walks in the footsteps of men and women who followed their dreams into the very lands that he once dreamed about as a child. Many became famous for their exploits: Charles Darwin, for example, discovered fossilized seashells high up in the Patagonian Andes that led to the formulation of his theory of evolution, while Che Guevara attempted to lead a revolution in the Bolivian Andes that he hoped would begin to transform the whole of South America. Some, like Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, found notoriety in the Andes for dark deeds that not only fueled their greed, but also caused social and political chaos. Others, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, used the mountains as a place to hide from their criminal pasts, only to find themselves hounded to death by the law. Still others, like freelance anthropologists Chris and Ed Franquemont, went into the Andes in search of a research project. Instead, they found a community of indigenous people to belong to and helped revitalize the dying art of weaving among them. Part history and part travel narrative, MacQuarrie’s book is as richly detailed as it is deeply felt. As the author describes a magnificent region with a turbulent past, he also pays homage to the “miracles and marvels” that lie buried like gems beneath the unfolding history of the South American continent.

A thoughtfully observed travel memoir and history.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4391-6889-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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