A fair-minded, consistently interesting attempt to unpack the “boxes within boxes in An’s life” and a fascinating...



The morally ambiguous life of a respected journalist for Time who turned out to be a spy for the North Vietnamese.

Viet Minh soldier Pham Xuan An was inducted into the Communist Party in 1953. The party subsequently funded his journalism education at California’s Orange Coast College, where he became fluent in English and thoroughly versed in all things American. Returning to Vietnam in 1959, working for Reuters and Time for more than 20 years as correspondent, translator and “all purpose go-to guy,” he earned the esteem of brilliant reporters, including Robert Shaplen of the New Yorker, Frank McCullough and Robert Sam Anson from Time and New York Times correspondents Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam. All the while, from this ideal cover, he was funneling valuable information and analysis to Hanoi. After the war, Vietnam made him a People’s Army Hero for his many intelligence coups, which had enabled Hanoi to understand American tactics and battle plans. Berman (Political Science/Univ. of California-Davis; No Peace, No Honor, 2001, etc.) traveled to Saigon to get this story and appears to have had almost complete access to An, his family, friends and files. The author attributes An’s remarkable clandestine success to his perfect impersonation of a reporter: There’s no evidence to suggest he engaged in disinformation or biased the coverage of the newsmen he aided. Though he never knowingly hurt any of his friends, An’s spying doubtlessly resulted in many American deaths. Yet An’s American circle expresses almost no feelings of outrage or betrayal, but rather echoes his own view that he fought not against the Americans, but rather for his own country as a nationalist patriot.

A fair-minded, consistently interesting attempt to unpack the “boxes within boxes in An’s life” and a fascinating contribution to our understanding of America’s defeat in Vietnam.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-088838-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Smithsonian/Collins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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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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