A truly heartening story of sheer determination and the will to survive and thrive.



A Cambodian refugee to America reflects on his arduous journey to freedom and job as a Secret Service officer.

In this harrowing yet inspiring and upbeat survival story, Oun (b. 1966), writing with Starnes, chronicles his upbringing in a poor, close-knit community in Battambang City, in northwest Cambodia. The author’s father was a lieutenant in the army, and his mother worked as a seamstress and cigarette roller. In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country, and Oun’s father was taken away and vanished. Soon, destitute families were herded out of their homes and marched into the “Killing Fields,” where they endured awful conditions working in the rice paddies with little food or shelter. Oun writes poignantly about how he had his beloved dog with him until the soldiers shot him “because they could”—an episode that was indicative of the senseless violence perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, which the author captures vividly. Suspected by others because of his soldier father, Oun had to change his name and survive by his wits, working as a mechanic, scavenging for bugs and catching rats at night for food. He was separated from his mother and captured and tortured. The refugee camps in Thailand held their own appalling conditions and dangers, but after three years, the author found resettlement in Maryland near some relatives. His relentless tenacity, loyalty, and hard work helped him graduate from high school and college, after which he served as a correctional officer before moving on to become a Secret Service officer and K-9 specialist. “If I can survive the Killing Fields of Cambodia to become a protector of the president of the United States,” he writes, “nothing in this world is impossible. I am living proof of that.”

A truly heartening story of sheer determination and the will to survive and thrive.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781439923368

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Temple Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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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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