Although Reynolds is forced to guess about much of Hemingway’s secret life as a spy, his conclusions seem consistent with...



A military historian uncovers evidence of Ernest Hemingway’s dabbling in espionage.

While working on an exhibition at the CIA Museum, retired Marine Corps and CIA officer Reynolds (U.S. Marines in Iraq, 2003: Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond, 2016) discovered “tantalizing traces” of Hemingway’s involvement in the Office of Strategic Services and Russia’s NKVD, the precursor of the KGB. Beginning with that tenuous evidence, the author has assembled fragments from FBI and NKVD files, sometimes more suggestive than definitive, to create this mostly engrossing story of Hemingway’s disillusionment with American politics, his sympathy with communism, and his attraction to adventure and subversion. Two events changed Hemingway’s political perspective: a devastating hurricane in the Florida Keys in 1935, when the government failed to evacuate stranded World War I veterans, “who died by the hundreds”; and the refusal of the U.S. to support the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Both made him “passionately pro-Republican and antifascist” and therefore a likely recruit for the NKVD. He seems not to have engaged in much actual spying either for the Soviets or, later, the Americans, to whom he also ferried information. During a trip to China with his wife, Martha Gellhorn, he reported to Washington about “the friction…between the Nationalists and the communists,” information that did not come from secret meetings or stolen papers. In 1942, living in Cuba, he headed what he called the “Crook Factory,” a motley collection of friends who reported to the American ambassador about any odd behavior among German or Spanish businessmen on the island. Like most of his spying activities, this one was short-lived. In his later years, Hemingway became obsessed with the idea that he was under FBI surveillance, and the author speculates that this delusion “deepened his depression and made his final illness worse.”

Although Reynolds is forced to guess about much of Hemingway’s secret life as a spy, his conclusions seem consistent with the well-known portrait of the novelist striving to prove his manliness and power.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244013-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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