Absorbing history spanning five complex decades of geopolitics and economics with clarity and panache. Longtime Moscow and Washington correspondent for the (Manchester) Guardian, Walker (The Money Soldiers, 1980) combines a broad awareness of history with a journalist's magpie eye for the telling anecdote—such as Reagan and Gromyko breaking through the strategic permafrost by acknowledging the demands of mortality in the form of their mutual bladder trouble. With a keen sense of drama, Walker portrays the Cold War as a high-stakes game of brinkmanship, bluff, and counterbluff played by a shifting and adroitly sketched cast. Although the two superpowers occupy center stage, Walker's perspective is global, moving from Berlin and Yalta just after WW II to the economic and political distortions that the 40-year standoff inflicted throughout an increasingly polarized world. As outright war became an ever more unthinkable prospect, America and Russia's contest—the first total ideological war, Walker suggests—was increasingly displaced onto a latter-day version of the ``Great Game'' of 19th-century imperialism played out in proxy conflicts on every continent. Walker addresses Cuba and Vietnam, summit meetings and showdowns, but what he regards as ultimately decisive is the ongoing war of economic attrition brought on by the Cold War's massive expenditures. And although he credits Reagan (no doubt too generously for some tastes) with the foresight both to call the USSR's bluff in the arms race and to match Gorbachev's vision of a nuclear-free world with his own, Walker suggests that American ``victory'' was bought at a huge price: Not only did the US see its economic hegemony usurped by the European and Asian allies its geopolitical strategy had enriched, but its own economic exhaustion finally rivaled that of its bested Soviet counterpart. This outcome fits the central irony of Walker's Cold War: America and Russia ``had more in common with one another than with their fractious and unruly allies.''

Pub Date: June 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-8050-3190-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



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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