A readable and unfailingly interesting look at a slice of Western history from a novel point of view.



An iconic national park becomes the stage for a complex game of 19th-century politics.

The Yellowstone country was not well explored until the 1870s, writes historian Nelson, “hemmed in by four mountain ranges” and sprinkled with the bones of unlucky adventurers. It did not help that numerous Native peoples, including the Hunkpapa (which Nelson correctly renders as Húŋkpapȟa) Lakota under Sitting Bull, considered the Yellowstone territory to be theirs and took pains to keep interlopers out. Arrayed against these Indigenous peoples were several concerns. Montana’s territorial governor, Nathaniel Langford, was interested in the country on its own terms, but there was also business behind it; he was just one of many who wanted to push a northerly transcontinental railroad through the region. The author displays her strong commitment to including the Native presence in any account of Western history, but there’s another twist in this tale: Nelson links the policy of domination of Native peoples with the unfinished business of Reconstruction in the South, extending federal control over recalcitrant states and individuals. “Republicans in the early 1870s,” she writes, “saw both projects as part of a national ideal: to create productive and patriotic American citizens.” As Ulysses S. Grant and other leading Republicans knew, the South was no place they could look for votes, but the West certainly was. All that remained was to settle the West with likely Republicans by removing obstacles, geographical or human. By Nelson’s account, it’s no accident that Henry Dawes, a Massachusetts senator who was a strong advocate for the creation of Yellowstone National Park, was also the author of legislation that settled Native peoples not on shared domains but instead allotted each individual Native American a small plot of land, destroying cultural norms. Reconstruction may have failed, but in their effort to weaken the Native population, the Republicans were successful for decades.

A readable and unfailingly interesting look at a slice of Western history from a novel point of view.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982141-33-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?