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DRY MANHATTAN

PROHIBITION IN NEW YORK CITY

A fine history of a most troubling time.

Drys vs. wets in Jazz-Age Gotham. Guess who wins.

The clear, focused text provides ample evidence of this first-time author’s wide research and deep familiarity with the relevant sources. Lerner (Assoc. Dean of Studies/Bard High School Early College) recognizes Prohibition’s central issue: the desire to define morality narrowly and to force that definition upon others. Teeming with immigrants and overflowing with booze, New York City seemed an unlikely battlefield, but William H. Anderson and his Anti-Saloon League came, saw and conquered. Anderson began his fierce and creative anti-alcohol campaign upon arrival in the city in 1914; by 1920, Prohibition was constitutional. The author does a good job of exploring and explaining Anderson’s strategies and of identifying the cultural and historical forces that enabled his initial successes, among them the identification of beer-drinking with Germans, America’s opponents in World War I. But, as Lerner notes, many counterforces weakened and then destroyed the dry movement. Alcohol had long been a part of sundry religious rituals, and the jobs of numerous New Yorkers were tied to the alcohol industry. Servers and bartenders were hurt by the ban on booze, of course, but so were truck drivers, bottle-makers, farmers and others. Lerner looks at how law enforcement and the judicial system reacted. He examines the conflicts between the federal agents and the local cops; he shows that many judges, opposed to the dry movement and overwhelmed by the vast numbers of new arrests clogging their courtrooms, simply dismissed cases or levied minimal fines. The drinking continued unabated, and a criminal class emerged to dominate the industry. Lerner ends with the 1928 and 1932 presidential campaigns of Al Smith and FDR, who both went wet. It’s disappointing that he declines to highlight contemporary parallels, since procrustean moralists remain among us, as does a “drug war.”

A fine history of a most troubling time.

Pub Date: March 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-674-02432-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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