A whopper of a history giving equal credit to the Rangers’s legendary gallantry and the accompanying brutality.




Cox (Texas Disasters, 2006, etc.) follows the 19th-century evolution of “a mostly volunteer Indian-fighting force,” founded in a remote province that was still part of Mexico, into “a paramilitary arm of the government” and then “a frontier law enforcement agency.”

During his 15 years as public-affairs spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the author enjoyed unlimited access to the documented records of the Texas Rangers. Now an Austin Statesman columnist, he combines that material with memoirs, anecdotes from descendants and irresistible apocrypha to chronicle the Rangers’s first 79 years. (A planned second volume will take them from 1900 to the present day). It reads like an amalgam of every Western movie ever filmed: Indians hold the high ground, but the vastly outnumbered Rangers charge and win; bandits hold up stagecoaches and are pursued by implacable Rangers; etc. Yet for much of the 19th century, the Rangers had less to do with law enforcement than with frontier security. The fierce, proud Kiowas and Comanches had been nomadic hunters for millennia; buffalo didn’t recognize a boundary between the Republic of Texas (1836–45) and U.S. Indian territory. For struggling frontier settlers, any Indian hunting party was a “depredation” waiting to happen. Escalation could be instantaneous; a warning shot begot a burned cabin, men killed, women and children taken captive. For a half-century or more, the Rangers were first responders in these situations, sporting badges handcrafted from Mexican five-peso pieces. Each side took scalps and inflicted physical terror on the other. Rangers could be drawn into ambushes, and at times they mistakenly attacked peaceful tribes. But particularly after the Civil War, real men who could drop an enemy from several hundred yards with a rifle were almost all the law there was in Texas. Cox fleshes out their true-life adventures with mundane realities like chronic underfunding due to public ingratitude.

A whopper of a history giving equal credit to the Rangers’s legendary gallantry and the accompanying brutality.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-87386-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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