A horrendous story told with bitter skill, highlighting the whole sordid, greedy mess that attends illegal broader crossings.

THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY

A TRUE STORY

The rueful, fate-wracked tale of 26 men who tried to cross into the US from Mexico but chose the wrong time, place, and guide.

More than half would die, turned to cinder in the sun-blasted desert of southern Arizona. American Book Award–winner Urrea (Wandering Time, 1999, etc.) tells this grim story wonderfully; like the Border Patrol’s trackers, he cuts back and forth, looking for signs, following tracks wherever they might lead. This means relating the various biographies of the “walkers” themselves and discovering what drove them north, from the desire for a new life to a season’s work in the orange groves to a job putting a new roof on a house. It means delving into the disastrous Mexican state, with its “catastrophic political malfeasance that forced the walkers to flee their homes and bake to death in the western desert.” Urrea notes the shift in tactics, thanks to the Border Patrol’s extremely effective interdiction and prevention policies, which now compel guides to take walkers over the most remote and dangerous routes. They will often be abandoned if the going gets too tough, as happened here. Urrea spends time in the ratty border hotels and towns (“Sonoita smells like bad fruit and sewage. Blue clouds of exhaust leak from the dying cars”), and he spends time with the Patrol, especially the trackers, who can read so much from a footprint that it’s scary. But not as scary as hyperthermia and its ugly progress: the first stages of stress and fatigue, on through syncope and cramps, to the dreadful sludge of exhaustion and stroke. This is not the peaceful sleep-death brought on by freezing; it’s reeling and raging, and when a man’s son dies in his arms, “the father lurched away into the desert, away from the trees, crying out in despair.”

A horrendous story told with bitter skill, highlighting the whole sordid, greedy mess that attends illegal broader crossings.

Pub Date: April 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-74671-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2004

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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