Oddly compelling tales of disaster averted, sometimes miraculously.



Dramatic accounts of assassination attempts and other brushes with death in the lives of select serving or future chief executives.

Four U.S presidents have been assassinated while in office, but considerably more have had narrow squeaks, as Spradlin, writing with a sharp eye for colorful quotes and details, chronicles. Most incidents occurred before or after their terms—George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, were targeted by assassins in wartime; young officers John Kennedy and George H.W. Bush were likewise nearly captured in the Pacific in World War II; Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest on a campaign stop (and went on to deliver a 90-minute speech after examining his spittle to make sure his lung hadn’t been punctured); and Navy officer Jimmy Carter led a crew tasked with shutting down an unstable nuclear reactor (“I had radioactive urine for six months,” he recalls). The author includes substantial asides on the motives and fates of the would-be assassins, significant figures such as detective Allan Pinkerton and his gifted associate Kate Warne, and like high-interest topics. Nearly everyone here is or was white, but though the author’s nods to Washington’s secret agents “Hercules Mulligan and his slave, Cato” are clumsy, he does note that the GIs who blew the whistle on the Eisenhower plot by capturing a trio of German agents were African American.

Oddly compelling tales of disaster averted, sometimes miraculously. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0023-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...



A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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In this companion to Portraits of War: Civil War Photographers and Their Work (1998), Sullivan presents an album of the prominent ships and men who fought on both sides, matched to an engrossing account of the war's progress: at sea, on the Mississippi, and along the South's well-defended coastline. In his view, the issue never was in doubt, for though the Confederacy fought back with innovative ironclads, sleek blockade runners, well-armed commerce raiders, and sturdy fortifications, from the earliest stages the North was able to seal off, and then take, one major southern port after another. The photos, many of which were made from fragile glass plates whose survival seems near-miraculous, are drawn from private as well as public collections, and some have never been published before. There aren't any action shots, since mid-19th-century photography required very long exposure times, but the author compensates with contemporary prints, plus crisp battle accounts, lucid strategic overviews, and descriptions of the technological developments that, by war's end, gave this country a world-class navy. He also profiles the careers of Matthew Brady and several less well-known photographers, adding another level of interest to a multi-stranded survey. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7613-1553-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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