Military history unfortunately propelled by the author’s insistent imagery.



A journalist portrays World War II as a grand theatrical production.

Lande (The Life and Times of Homer Sincere, 2010, etc.), former director of TIME World News Service and executive producer for CBS and NBC, conceives the war as theater, complete with costumes (soldiers’ uniforms), sets (Nazi extravaganzas, for example), and “theatrical entrepreneurs, writer-directors who wrote, enacted, and implemented their own scripts.” These were “Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.” “Governments,” writes the author, “used oratory and entertainment to establish a framework that would support their respective wartime finales both in the theater of warfare and the theater surrounding and supporting this war, to inspire the home front audience.” Drawing on standard histories of the war, Lande reprises a familiar sequence of events, but his persistent view of these events as theater trivializes their gravity. He characterizes Hitler as having a “dramatic orientation,” assembling a huge cast “to play in the theater of war,” and deems Germany’s invasion of the demilitarized Rhineland “an out of town tryout.” In praising Churchill’s oratorical skills, the author sees the “theater dark, the lighting effects of the theater were dim until the British lion roared, and now the British had a wartime leader for whom dramaturgical techniques came easily.” Britain’s need for civilian participation resulted, Lande writes, in “a ‘casting’ call” for players to do “what was necessary to effect the final outcome as scripted by their leader.” Of a soldier who died heroically, the author writes that he became “another member of a cast that never had a chance to take a final bow.” Lande offers a detailed look at “black propaganda”: disinformation that the Allies sent to demoralize Germans and persuade them “to intentionally deviate from Hitler’s script.” After Roosevelt’s death, Truman was “custodian of the final script”; Eisenhower followed his own “production plan,” and Patton played a “Hero General,” as if out of central casting.

Military history unfortunately propelled by the author’s insistent imagery.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1586-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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