Flickers of interest, but an inconsequential entry in the crowded race of works devoted to the upcoming Lewis and Clark...

SEDUCED BY THE WEST

JEFFERSON’S AMERICA AND THE LURE OF THE LAND BEYOND THE MISSISSIPPI

Mix “fiery-tempered Spaniards” and ignoble Virginians, and you’re likely to get trouble. Throw in Napoleon, and the plot thickens. . . .

Amateur historian Carlson (Cattle, 2001, etc.) wonders why Thomas Jefferson should have bothered to send Meriwether Lewis and William Clark off on an arduous transcontinental journey by foot when Yankee clippers were already plying the Pacific coast, why he didn’t bother to commission one of those ships to pick them up at the mouth of the Columbia River. The answer? Jefferson didn’t want them to survive, didn’t think they would survive; he meant them as bait by which to pick a fight with the Spanish, who would certainly “try to stop them, perhaps even kill them” as they slogged their way across territory claimed by the Spanish crown. Such resistance would afford Jefferson a quasi-legal pretext for inaugurating a great land grab and forcing the Spanish empire south of the Rio Grande, as in fact happened 40 years later with the Mexican-American War. It makes a nice conspiracy theory, and it has a little merit: plenty of Jefferson’s correspondence (which, to judge by the scant bibliography here, Carlson has not consulted) suggests his dislike for Spain and his desire to make the land beyond the Appalachians part of the US. But Jefferson also plainly wrote that the Spanish empire in America would soon fall apart of its own accord without American soldiers having to do anything about it, and he counseled a wait-and-see approach at odds with the one Carlson proposes. Carlson does a good job of restoring overlooked figures, such as mariner John Ledyard and accidental diplomat Nicholas Trist to the record, but her speculations pale next to far better-developed, and better-documented, recent studies of the Lewis and Clark expedition and westward expansion, notably Jon Kukla’s A Wilderness So Immense (p. 209) and Thomas Slaughter’s Exploring Lewis and Clark (2002).

Flickers of interest, but an inconsequential entry in the crowded race of works devoted to the upcoming Lewis and Clark bicentenary.

Pub Date: May 3, 2003

ISBN: 1-56663-490-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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