Dobbs’s careful narrative supposes no prior knowledge of those long-ago events, making it a welcome introduction to that...

ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT

KENNEDY, KRUSHCHEV, AND CASTRO ON THE BRINK OF NUCLEAR WAR

A nuanced account of the events of October 1962, when the Cold War almost ran hot.

Countless historians have noted that the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, but Washington Post reporter Dobbs (Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America, 2004, etc.) gives a vivid account of just how close to the brink the world truly came. The story begins at the Bay of Pigs, with John F. Kennedy’s disastrous effort to land CIA-trained Cuban exiles in Cuba and bring down Fidel Castro’s government. Castro’s victory there, Kennedy was convinced, gave Nikita Khrushchev cause to devalue the American president: “Probably thinks I’m stupid. Maybe most important, he thinks that I had no guts.” JFK had no love for his Soviet counterpart, to be sure, and less so when Khrushchev, citing treaty obligations, installed missiles on Cuba easily capable of delivering nuclear warheads anywhere in America. JFK was prepared to go to war to keep the missiles from going online. Khrushchev may not really have been, though, as Dobbs sagely observes: “Once set in motion, the machinery of war quickly acquired its own logic and momentum,” adding that the unwritten protocol that neither side could appear hesitant made it difficult to back away from a martial stance once it was assumed. There were other difficulties, the author observes, including the slow speed of communications in those days, often still through letters delivered by hand. So it was when Khrushchev, having almost unleashed an attack on the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay, finally stepped back, writing to JFK that he had ordered the offensive missiles to be crated and sent back home. That decision, Dobbs notes, gave the Soviet Union an edge in public relations, “yet another triumph for Moscow’s peace-loving foreign policy over warmongering imperialists.” Hard-line Soviets saw it as surrender, though, which contributed to Khrushchev’s later fall.

Dobbs’s careful narrative supposes no prior knowledge of those long-ago events, making it a welcome introduction to that perilous time.

Pub Date: June 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4358-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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.

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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