THE KOREAN WAR

An overview of the 1950-53 "police action" that ranks with T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War and Bevin Alexander's Korea (1986). Having interviewed over 200 American, British, Canadian, and Chinese veterans, Hastings (Overlord, Bomber Command, The Battle for the Falklands) is able to put the bitter conflict into human-scale focus. As an Englishman, moreover, he offers fresh perspectives on the contributions of Commonwealth and other nations that, at no small sacrifice, sent troops to fight under the UN banner. In addition to obligatory coverage of the Inchon, Pusan, and Chosin campaigns, for example, he provides a musing account of the Gloucestershire Regiment's costly 1951 stand on the Imjin River, about 30 miles north of Seoul. Hastings is equally adept at capturing the big picture, offering persuasive interpretations of the causes and course of the Korean conflict, "a struggle the West was utterly right to fight." For instance, he documents the American miscalculations that' helped precipitate North Korea's mid-1950 invasion with "active assistance" from Moscow and "the connivance" of Peking. Along similar lines, the author argues convincingly that the US, whose forces bore the brunt of the combat duty, could have avoided confrontation with the Communist Chinese had it heeded clear warnings that they required North Korea as a buffer state. While the Korean War was effectively ended when peace talks started at Kaesong, Hastings makes clear that the small-unit actions and set-piece battles of the pre-ceasefire period were every bit as bloody as the dramatic thrust and parry of the first year. During the stalemate, UN and Chinese forces engaged in savage strife along the 38th Parallel, sustaining tens of thousands of casualties. Brutality and brawls in POW compounds on both sides also exacted a heavy toll while the superpowers took each other's measure at the bargaining table. A balanced, perceptive reckoning of what was won and lost in an important clash of arms that excited precious little interest or passion on home fronts. The absorbing text has photographs and maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 1987

ISBN: 067166834X

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1987

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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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