An intriguing episodic account of true crime and survival on New York’s outer edges.

ON THE WATERFRONT

A compilation of The New York Sun’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1948-49 series, which uncovered widespread corruption and violence affecting the longshoremen who toiled along the city's crime-ridden waterfront.

Written by investigative reporter Johnson, “Crimes on the Waterfront” exposed the racketeering that had crept like cancer through the shipping trade and threatened the lives of blue-collar Gothamites. Crooked hiring bosses, loaders and stevedores outnumbered the honest longshoremen, who in order to stay employed were forced to take loans from shark bosses, pay steep kickbacks, ignore pilfering and keep their mouths shut or end up dead under a pier. Local corruption had a direct effect on the city’s economy as prices soared and shippers avoided New York like the pirate’s cove it was. Though allegations of communist sympathies and death threats were made against Johnson and his family, the series prompted a reformation of the local shipping trade and served as the basis for Budd Schulberg’s most famous screenplay. The volume at hand reprints the series with a foreword from Johnson’s son Haynes (also a Pulitzer winner) and an introduction by Schulberg, as well as additional articles by the screenwriter on the same subject. Johnson, who died in 1976, is fearless in his coverage of those most affected by the criminal activity, making these articles a saga of racketeering and the everyman. Soaked in the vernacular of the late 1940s, his prose offers a strictly factual interpretation of the issues. The series remains as it first appeared in The Sun, so reading individual articles in succession becomes somewhat repetitive due to the unavoidable refreshers intended for the original newspaper readership. Framed by Schulberg’s more cinematic articles depicting life on the waterfront with plenty of individual portraiture, Johnson’s series gains an associative literary texture that fleshes out this seriously roughneck subject.

An intriguing episodic account of true crime and survival on New York’s outer edges.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59609-013-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chamberlain Bros./Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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.

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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