One of the best books on a single action in Vietnam, written by a tough, seasoned journalist who brings the events of a...

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HUE 1968

A TURNING POINT OF THE AMERICAN WAR IN VIETNAM

A stirring history of the 1968 battle that definitively turned the Vietnam War into an American defeat.

On the first day of the Tet Lunar New Year holiday in 1968, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces attacked the ancient city of Hue, the one-time capital of Vietnam and the country’s third-largest city. American forces scrambled to relieve the U.S. garrison there, amazed, as Bowden (The Three Battles of Wanat, 2016, etc.) writes, to be in an actual city after experiencing only “air bases, rice paddies, and jungle.” The battle occasioned not just surprise on the part of the grunts, but also a change in behavior on the part of the attackers, who had orders not just to liberate Hue, but “to look and behave like winners.” The tactic, to say nothing of the heavy losses inflicted on American and South Vietnamese forces, did indeed shift perceptions. The author observes that after Hue, it was only a matter of time before America would leave Vietnam, and in the bargain, ordinary American citizens would never again trust their government. Bowden delivers a series of brilliantly constructed set pieces, beginning with a moment of proto-social engineering in which a young, pretty Viet Cong learned about American troop movements in the city by flirting with GIs outside their compound. Devotees of Vietnam movies such as Full Metal Jacket will see several scenes come into real-life focus, with a football hero as commander and companies of troops bearing names like Hotel and Echo rooting out snipers and enemy columns, occasionally violating orders to save themselves by letting loose ground-fired napalm (“They caught hell for that—the commanders were worried about setting the city on fire”) against a smart, entrenched foe. Building on portraits of combatants on all sides, Bowden delivers an anecdotally rich, careful account of the complex campaign to take the city.

One of the best books on a single action in Vietnam, written by a tough, seasoned journalist who brings the events of a half-century past into sharp relief.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2700-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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