A carefully framed examination of Indian-hating and the white savages who were “in the service of white civilization.”

AMERICAN LEVIATHAN

EMPIRE, NATION, AND REVOLUTIONARY FRONTIER

Think not Melville but Hobbes: a provocative study of how the war-of-each-against-all on the western frontier of America shaped the revolutionary nation.

It’s understandable that Thomas Quick should have disappeared from the history books. Writes Griffin (History/Ohio Univ.): “The master narratives we have of the American Revolution fail to contain Tom Quick because they cannot contain him”—cannot, it seems, because we would not like knowing what he tells us about ourselves. Quick was a notorious Indian killer who “trolled the woods for victims” and begged, on his deathbed, to have an Indian, any Indian, brought within shooting distance of him. Griffin notes that that western frontier, meaning mostly Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, was a savage place, and the savage Americans who spilled out into the territory did not like to hear from the British crown that it properly belonged to the Indians. Britain attempted to maintain the peace by building a chain of forts and other “pockets of civility” west of which civilians would not be allowed to settle, but a white populace, spurred on by Quick and the Paxton Boys and other frontier-tamers who were not inclined to “wait for the day when civility would transform Indian culture,” slaughtered just about any Indian whose path they crossed. In the revolutionary and immediate postrevolutionary era, justice occasionally prevailed and such killers were punished; more usually, by Griffin’s account, makeshift genocide was tolerated, so much so that it was almost sanctioned. Officially, the government may have tried to foster good relations with Indians on the frontier, but it made no effort to restrain the killers generically called “the Virginians,” who had won the battle of hearts and minds among their fellow whites.

A carefully framed examination of Indian-hating and the white savages who were “in the service of white civilization.”

Pub Date: April 17, 2007

ISBN: 0-8090-9515-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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