He wasn’t born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, and he didn’t kill a b’ar when he was only three. Even so, David Crockett was a force of nature, as this fine biography details.

The Scots-Irish son of the American frontier, writes Wallis (Billy the Kid, 2007, etc.), became a legend within his lifetime and “died as a work still very much in progress.” Yet much of what we know about Crockett is erroneous, thanks to fictions perpetuated over the course of nearly two centuries. David Crockett—David, not Davy—was indeed an accomplished hunter of bears, having killed more than 100 of them in seven months during 1825–26, as Wallis carefully records. But more than that, he was a frontier entrepreneur who “approached nature as a science and hunting as an art,” earning a considerable income supplying furs for a hungry East Coast and European trade. As a politician, an endeavor in which hunting stories were guaranteed to liven up stump speeches, he fell afoul of fellow Tennessean Andrew Jackson early on, opining against several of Jackson’s policies and views, particularly on the matter of what to do about the Indians. (Crockett opposed the relocations that would culminate in the Trail of Tears.) It was on the hustings, Wallis writes, that Crockett perfected a kind of bumpkin persona, wearing a buckskin shirt with two big pockets: “In one pocket he kept a big twist of tobacco and in the other a bottle of liquor,” either of which worked to sway a voter. When Crockett’s card in Washington played out, he left for Texas—whose Anglo secessionists, writes the author, desired freedom from Mexico at least in part because Mexico had outlawed slavery. There Crockett met his end—but not, as Wallis notes, in quite the way Walt Disney would have it. An excellent study likely to tick off the hagiographers.


Pub Date: May 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-06758-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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