Enlightening saga of tough men, tough times, persistent corruption and greed.




The nation’s worst hard-rock mining disaster serves as a focal point for examining the mixed legacy of Big Copper.

U.S. mining tragedies of recent years have a way to go to compare with the disaster that took 163 lives beginning on June 8, 1917, outside of Butte, Mont. Miners at what was called “the world’s richest hill” had been working for years at up to a half-mile below ground (plus equal or greater lateral distances from the nearest vertical shaft), extracting precious metal and copper ores; most were in the employ of the giant Anaconda Company, owned by the Rockefeller minions of Standard Oil, but the accidental fire was started in a North Butte Mining Co. (long defunct) shaft. A former Washington lawyer and a novelist (The Revenant, 2002), Punke pores through the records to detail aspects of heroics and tragedy; men died from burns, suffocation (including carbon monoxide), some were scalded to death and possibly even drowned as water was poured into the mine to quench the blazing timbers. Because Anaconda had lately sealed off a number of passages, bodies were found with fingers scraped to the bone, the victims’ “certain” escape cut off. The disaster is the author’s point of departure for an extended look at the impact of mining—primarily of copper—on Butte itself, the state of Montana and the nation. Ensuing labor unrest on the eve of World War I, for instance, was viciously suppressed by industry barons, with government in their pockets, leading to violence and hysteria. Economic depression followed as Butte’s ores were depleted, leaving the city with today’s giant toxic lake—the pathetic last vestige of pit-mining.

Enlightening saga of tough men, tough times, persistent corruption and greed.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2006

ISBN: 1-4013-0155-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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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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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