An engaging look at controversial defendants from the 1940s to the ’70s.

Secret History

A meticulous legal examination of the evidence against famous espionage and terrorism defendants.

The majority of Roberts’ debut study focuses on post–World War II America: the era of Cold War paranoia, real and perceived Soviet threats, McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Using a large dose of common sense, the author analyzes testimony from espionage cases involving U.S. government employees Alger Hiss, David Zablodowsky, Oliver Edmund Clubb, Harry Dexter White, William Remington and Judith Coplon. The most compelling passages zero in on Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, two colorful characters who confessed to acts of treason and then testified against their alleged accomplices in order to avoid prosecution. Roberts suggests that the FBI and other authorities had invested so much in these unreliable witnesses that they went to great lengths to prop up their veneers of respectability—despite the witnesses’ odd behavior and questionable claims. Toward the end of the book, the author abruptly shifts to the Irish Republican Army bombings in Britain during the 1970s and the suspects referred to as the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and the Birmingham Six. Here, he continues to attack official versions of events by underscoring their flawed assumptions and logistical improbabilities. However, he doesn’t explain his rationale for including such disparate historical contexts until the final chapter: “Both countries, and both periods, are linked by the fact that in each there was an urgent need to find someone who was guilty; and that in both, stories of the most preposterous kind were believed.” Thus, readers might want to begin with the last chapter to contextualize the interwoven tales of intrigue recounted in the rest of the book. Fortunately, the author provides a helpful index of the myriad figures, organizations and themes that resurface throughout the text. As debates about the guilt or innocence of these individuals rage on, this book will certainly stoke that fire.

An engaging look at controversial defendants from the 1940s to the ’70s.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1456789862

Page Count: 300

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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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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