Shining Path was significant enough to warrant a better book at the hands of someone like Mark Bowden. For the moment,...



Drawing on Peruvian government archives, two scholars recount the fortunes of a headline-grabbing Peruvian guerrilla movement.

It’s never a good idea to join a political party founded by college professors, who think in coldblooded abstractions. Such was certainly the case with Abimael Guzmán, who, in 1980, founded Shining Path, a Maoist-with-deviations gang in which his wife and other women took leadership roles. As Starn (Cultural Anthropology/Duke Univ.; The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal, 2011, etc.) and La Serna (History/Univ. of North Carolina; The Corner of the Living: Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency, 2012, etc.) show, there wasn’t much questioning of the supreme leader, who took the curious path of attacking peasants as well as government troops. For its part, the Peruvian government, which, under Alberto Fujimori, was certainly corrupt enough to merit a revolution, committed atrocities of its own even while preparing for the day of Guzmán’s fall by building a maximum security prison intended just for him. Of interest to literary historians is the go-between investigative work of the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who emerged from events disgusted enough to quit politics and move to Spain. “The citizenship change, Fujimori taunted, showed that his globe-trotting rival had never been a real Peruvian in the first place,” write the authors, though Vargas Llosa had his revenge by winning the Nobel Prize a few years later. Guzmán was eventually caught and imprisoned, ending Shining Path’s most active period. The authors do a fair job of recounting events, though often ham-fistedly: The fact that Silence of the Lambs was playing in Lima movie theaters at the time does not qualify Guzmán for the sobriquet “Peru’s own Hannibal Lecter,” and it’s a bit overblown to throw in the gruesome torture of rebel leader Túpac Amaru two centuries earlier as evidence for how comparatively easy the “white doctor and…celebrity prisoner” Guzmán had it.

Shining Path was significant enough to warrant a better book at the hands of someone like Mark Bowden. For the moment, however, this adequate one will do.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-29280-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet