Timely reading as Americans continue to reckon with an unreliable, sometimes racist criminal justice system.




An examination of a 1966 racial confrontation and its aftermath, which “would help dismantle the infrastructure of white supremacy that had strangled [a rural Louisiana] community for centuries.”

Van Meter, a Detroit-based journalist who is an assistant director of that city’s Shakespeare in Prison project, describes an altercation between two black high school students and four white students. It took place in Plaquemines Parish, a bayou community already infamous for its virulent racism, in large part because of the bigoted politician who ruled the area, Leander H. Perez, who “hurled himself bodily at challenges, heedless of opposition or difficulty.” The criminal case that resulted from the incident, which received a push from Perez, involved Gary Duncan, 19 at the time. On Oct. 18, 1966, Duncan noticed the two black students while driving out of town. Sensing that the white students might attack them, Duncan stopped his car and defused the situation, lightly touching the arm of one of the white boys before driving off. That moment, writes the author in this readable legal and civil rights history, “marked the beginning of one of the most important—and improbable criminal cases in history.” Duncan was charged with assault. Through a series of unlikely connections, he found 28-year-old Richard Sobol, a white attorney visiting Louisiana to work on civil rights litigation while on a brief break from his corporate firm in Washington, D.C. White lawyers in the area, pushed by Perez, become so enraged at Sobol that they attempted to ban him from practicing law in the state, but Sobol prevailed. The federal court in New Orleans ruled that the prosecution “can only be interpreted as harassment” and “was meant to show Richard that civil rights lawyers were not welcome in the parish and their defense of Negroes…would not be tolerated.” Though not as revelatory as Just Mercy, this will appeal to admirers of Bryan Stevenson and similar crusaders.

Timely reading as Americans continue to reckon with an unreliable, sometimes racist criminal justice system.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-43503-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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