A careful study, obviously sympathetic to the Republican cause but generally evenhanded.



Searching study of the role of the press in shaping world opinion about the Spanish Republic and its enemies—a role that, regrettably, was not enough to stir world leaders to action.

In a broad gallery of heroes, along with a few villains, Preston (Spanish History/London School of Economics; The Spanish Civil War, 2006, etc.) singles out the “meticulously honest” New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews, who wrote of the uneven battle between Franco’s fascist armies, backed by troops, planes and armaments from Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, and the Republican forces, supplemented mostly by leftist volunteers from around the world (including George Orwell and André Malraux). Matthews, Preston writes, was hounded throughout his posting by pro-Franco forces in the United States, including the so-called International Catholic Truth Society and the Catholic diocese of Brooklyn, which organized a boycott of the Times to protest Matthews’ fair reporting. The Times caved, sort of, sending in Franco booster William P. Carney in the interest of balance, then running his “unashamedly partisan material,” to say nothing of stories that were pure inventions. Carney’s reporting, Preston insists, was roundly contradicted by many hands—and the press corps in Spain eventually included Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, as well as relative unknowns such as the Soviet reporter Mikhail Koltsov. Regardless of their politics, many journalists fell into the usual habits of bed- and barhopping, which provides some of the lighter moments in then narrative. Sobering, however, is the author’s analysis of why the Western powers, though knowing that Spain was a prelude for a great confrontation with the Axis, failed to back the Republican government in a moment of cowardice and calculation—Franklin Roosevelt told Interior Secretary Harold Ickes that do so “would mean the loss of every Catholic vote next fall.” Particularly intriguing is Preston’s account of how the Guernica story, known to us today mostly by way of Picasso, broke—with Carney reporting for the New York Times that the Basques had bombed themselves.

A careful study, obviously sympathetic to the Republican cause but generally evenhanded.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60239-767-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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

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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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