Welcome to an overlooked chapter in American history. Combining the details of a compelling story and the significance of precedent-setting Supreme Court decisions provides the ingredients for a terrific book. Dallas Morning News journalist Curriden and attorney Phillips deliver just that, presenting a reconstructed version of events that could be mistaken for a blockbuster movie if not for the un-Hollywood-like ending. When a white woman is assaulted and raped in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1906, it doesn’t take long before a black man is accused. The racial dynamics of the community, the characters of the sheriff and judge, and the obviously flawed conviction of the accused, Ed Johnson, would be rejected as unimaginative plagiarism if this were a work of fiction. When two local black lawyers decide to appeal, however, events take a very unfamiliar twist as they end up in front of Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan requesting a stay of execution. Even more surprising is their success, for at this time, no precedent establishing the authority of the US Supreme Court to intervene in state criminal matters existed. Upon hearing the news from Washington, the local mob lynches Johnson with nearly overt cooperation from the sheriff. To the amazement of local officials, the incident doesn—t end there, for the members of the Supreme Court are considerably agitated by this affront to their authority. Federal investigations ensue and lead to contempt of court charges against the sheriff. These unprecedented charges lead to an equally unprecedented conviction, and the position of the Supreme Court as the ultimate court of appeal is established. Of course, the sentences are light and the prejudice that killed Ed Johnson remains more vigorous than the faint hope for justice that inspired his lawyers. Nevertheless, in a century that ultimately saw the Supreme Court take the lead in fighting institutionalized racism, this case was a watershed and deserves our attention.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-571-19952-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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