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1941

FIGHTING THE SHADOW WAR: A DIVIDED AMERICA IN A WORLD AT WAR

An engaging and well-researched look behind the scenes of an important historic era. Highly recommended.

A wide-ranging examination of America’s entry into World War II as the Franklin Roosevelt administration juggled the demands of an isolationist Congress and voices urging early intervention.

Historian Wortman (The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta, 2009, etc.) sets the stage with two writers observing Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, the spark that ignited the European phase of the war. William Shirer, the CBS radio correspondent in Berlin, was already appalled by Nazi oppression; the other, Phillip Johnson, was among the strongest American advocates of fascism. These two represent the two faces of American reaction to the war: conviction that the U.S. would inevitably be drawn into the war and determination to avoid involvement. Wortman expands the scope of the narrative to give a good account of both viewpoints. Isolationists ran the gamut from Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who felt America should fight only in self-defense, to Charles Lindbergh, whose anti-Semitism was at least as important a factor as his belief that Germany was invincible. Meanwhile, Winston Churchill, newly elevated to prime minister, lobbied incessantly for American aid to beleaguered Britain. Germany, Japan, and Italy, convinced that America would eventually take a side, played diplomacy and espionage for all they were worth. Wortman puts all this in the context of the events in Europe and the Pacific that pressured Roosevelt to commit the country to action, including submarine attacks on Atlantic convoys and Japanese aggression in mainland Asia. Plenty of interesting characters, including Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins and Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa, add spice to the story. The author displays a nice sense of the dramatic scene and a solid ear for telling quotes, and ample documentation gives readers the opportunity to look further into the history. Even readers familiar with the broad history of the era are likely to find new insights and new details of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that preceded Pearl Harbor.

An engaging and well-researched look behind the scenes of an important historic era. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2511-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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