Informative but often unwieldy history of a pivotal period for race relations in the American South.



A Reconstruction-era kidnapping incident in the Deep South gets put under the historical microscope.

Ross (History/Univ. of Maryland; Justice of Shattered Dreams: Samuel Freeman Miller and the Supreme Court during the Civil War Era, 2003) calls his legal nonfiction tale “a work of micro-history….It mines a single historical moment for insights into both the history of New Orleans and the Reconstruction era.” The author relates the now-obscure 1870 incident of the kidnapping of Mollie Digby, the young child of Irish immigrants Thomas and Bridgette Digby, and the subsequent trial of the two African-American kidnapping suspects, Creoles Ellen Follin and Louisa Murray. The event was to prove a watershed moment, however short-lived, in the 19th-century history of racial justice in the American Deep South. Ross also follows the fortunes of men like John Baptiste Jourdain, an African-American detective assigned to the Digby case, whose life would be significantly transformed forever by it. Ross’ historical work here is commendable, but what the book lacks is a sure-footed sense of dramatic pacing: The courtroom scenario that dominates the book is simply too long and drawn out, especially considering that the fate of Mollie Digby is made clear early on. Much of the book is centered on simply learning the motives for the kidnapping and whether Follin and Murray would be exonerated or found guilty by a multiracial New Orleans jury. Importantly though, Ross does show how the trial was used as a source of exploitation for anti-integrationist Southern politicians in the late 19th century who would later help usher in the nefarious Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” laws. “Because all black people were now free,” writes the author, “newspaper editors warned readers to expect ever more horrific crimes committed by black individuals unless the perpetrators were found and incarcerated.”

Informative but often unwieldy history of a pivotal period for race relations in the American South.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-19-977880-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



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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