Though Hudson’s choice of cases prefigures his conclusions, his evidence is incisive enough to challenge, if not disarm, the...



Does the killing of kings and religious leaders do anyone any good? British historian Hudson (War and the Media, not reviewed) looks at 18 famous cases and finds that only one might have accomplished the killer’s goals.

Some might object when Hudson adds Jesus Christ onto a list that includes Julius Caesar, Malcolm X, Thomas à Becket, Marat, and Rasputin. Others might ask why Abraham Lincoln is the only US president among the murdered elected leaders (like Gandhi, Yitzhak Rabin, and South Africa’s Hendrick Verwoerd) who, Hudson feels, might have changed their nations for the better had they died of natural causes. And why consider luckless victims like Archduke Franz Ferdinand (whose killing started WWI) and Lord Frederick Cavendish (knocked off by the IRA), who, like so many modern terrorist targets, were killed because they happened to be easy prey? It seems that in studying the phenomenology of assassination, Hudson is after bigger game. In his clear, accessibly argued monograph, he builds on the ideas of American sociologist Alfred Hirschman, who wrote off assassinations as a fool’s errand that can bring on only one of three outcomes: a backlash that reverses what the killers may have hoped to accomplish (Christ, Caesar, Lincoln), unforeseen calamities that make things worse for everyone (Archduke Ferdinand, Czar Nicholas II, Michael Collins), or a failure to alter whatever social conditions inspired the killing (Rasputin, Marat, Rabin). Hudson finds only one exception: Stalin’s killing of Leon Trotsky, which he believes reinforced Stalin’s reputation as a ruthlessly powerful global dictator. Lurking behind Hudson’s study is the big question of the extent to which individuals influence the fate of nations. His carefully qualified answer: not much.

Though Hudson’s choice of cases prefigures his conclusions, his evidence is incisive enough to challenge, if not disarm, the ill-informed hatemongering of those who advocate the killing of public leaders. (30 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7509-1966-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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