The imperfect defense of a controversial perspective on the hell that is war.



An investigative journalist indicts the leadership of the American military for war crimes in Vietnam.

Turse (The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, 2008, etc.) has a reputation for rooting out perceived misdeeds on the part of the U.S. government and has plied his trade investigating drone strikes, arms sales and operations by Special Forces. Here, the author attempts to fold more than a decade of research about the Vietnam War into a not-so-neat package, with mixed results. His thesis is that incidents like the shameful My Lai massacre were not isolated anomalies, but rather the inevitable result of a systemized, operational directive to slaughter the population of Vietnam. In reconstructing the 1967 blood bath at Trieu Ai, Turse finds common elements. “Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire, pounding the rural population on an almost daily basis and forcing them into underground bunkers,” he writes. “Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps, where their movements were strictly controlled by the government. And here, too, was the inevitable outcome of the soldiers’ training: all the endless chants of ‘kill, kill, kill,’ the dehumanization of the ‘dinks, gooks, slopes, slants,’ and the constant insistence that even women and small children were to be regarded as potential enemies.” Turse’s research is thorough enough to warrant more than 80 pages of notes, but his assembly of the data available has a manipulative sheen to it. The book also treads a lot of previously covered ground, like the 1969 “Operation Speedy Express,” during which the military claimed more than 10,000 enemy combatants dead but recovered less than 800 weapons—an incident that drew fire as early as 1972. Relying heavily on declassified documents and interviews with survivors, the book reads more like the extension of a predisposed agenda than straight-up journalism.

The imperfect defense of a controversial perspective on the hell that is war.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8691-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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