A thoroughly researched, riveting journey into the heart of darkness. (4 pages maps, not seen)



Popular historian Dash (Tulipomania, 2000) rediscovers an astonishing, sanguinary, and sexy 17th-century drama of mutiny, shipwreck, murder, and mayhem.

In June 1629, the Dutch East India Company’s ship Batavia, seven months out of Amsterdam, hit a South Pacific reef at full speed. Passengers and crew scrambled to survive and to save as much as they could of the valuables aboard. At this charged moment in the narrative, Dash takes us back to the Netherlands for some background on the principal players in a gory drama whose first act has only just begun. They include: randy captain Ariaen Jacobszoon; Dutch East India Company representative Francisco Pelsaert, the ultimate authority onboard; and apothecary Jeronimus Corneliszoon, an “under-merchant” just below Pelsaert on the organizational chart. The Batavia was on her maiden voyage when she hit the reef and sank. But she had already become, like all long-range vessels of the time, a home for vermin of every description and a fetid community of the unwashed. (Dash gives as many details as he can find about the ship, including her salvage in the 1960s, and he’s lavish with sidelights in Dutch history as well, such as the fact that among the main customers for spices from the Indies were butchers who used them to mask the smell of rotting meat.) Immediately after the wreck, Captain Jacobszoon deposited most of the survivors on a barren, deserted island while he and some of the sailors headed for Java and a rescue vessel 900 miles away. “The calibre of the men on the island,” states Dash dryly, “left a great deal to be desired.” Indeed it did. By the time the rescuers arrived, Corneliszoon and his henchmen had murdered and raped scores of people, but they received justice as cruel and unusual as their crimes in the form of torture, mutilation, and hanging.

A thoroughly researched, riveting journey into the heart of darkness. (4 pages maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60766-9

Page Count: 25

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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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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