Hickey’s text is clear and concise but falls short of a definitive history of the Korean War—too much is left out to justify...

THE KOREAN WAR

THE WEST CONFRONTS COMMUNISM, 1950-1953

A British officer’s history of the events of “The Forgotten War” in Korea.

Hickey (The Unforgettable Army, not reviewed), a Korean War veteran, reports on the main events of a war fought amid the extremes of sub-zero cold and exhausting heat. The US Army was taken by surprise when the North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel in 1950, and it lacked combat readiness after five undemanding years of garrison duty in postwar Japan. Together with unreliable Republic of Korea troops they were thrown into the bloody cauldron of combat against a prepared, ruthless enemy—and almost driven into the sea after a panic-filled retreat, until a reinforced defensive line finally held at the Pusan Perimeter in southernmost Korea. MacArthur’s brilliant landing at Inchon, plus a renewed UN allied offensive saved the day. But, as everyone knows, MacArthur ignored the orders of President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, driving relentlessly to the Yalu River at the Manchurian frontier. Truman, fearing another world war with China and the Soviet Union, replaced MacArthur with General Ridgway after massive Chinese armies entered the war and forced UN forces to retreat. Hickey notes the heroic performance of the US Marines, their engineers, and the US Air Force at the Chosen Reservoir. Ridgway rallied his troops after the famous “bug out” of US and Allied troops before the huge numbers of Chinese, and he stiffened the UN lines before the long stalemate during the peace talks and the bloodletting at Pork Chop Hill. Hickey dwells at length on the experiences of the British and Australians, although the US contributed most of the manpower, supplies, and air and naval power that decided the war’s end. Hickey’s viewpoint is that of the commanders and has little to relate about the grunts on the firing lines who suffered and died, so the reader does not get the tragic sense of the terror, heroics, and high emotion of combat. His approach suggests the reporting of a staff officer in the rear—out of harm’s way.

Hickey’s text is clear and concise but falls short of a definitive history of the Korean War—too much is left out to justify the title.

Pub Date: June 25, 2000

ISBN: 1-58567-035-9

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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