Sturdy research and clear prose reveal some truly abominable snowmen wreaking havoc in Alaska.



A scandalous tale of rampant greed and criminal behavior amid a gold rush near Nome, Alaska, in 1900.

Freelance journalist Starobin, a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week, returns with a thoroughly researched account of a massive mining swindle in Nome. Thankfully, because the significant players are so abundant, he provides a cast of characters at the beginning of the book along with a simple but helpful map of the relevant area. But certain key figures quickly emerge and dominate, principally the master con man and powerful “boss” from North Dakota, Alexander McKenzie, who saw opportunity in Nome, headed north with some cronies (including lawyers), and abruptly took over mining claims from the less powerful. The author does an excellent job of moving readers around, teaching us about other figures who were there (including Wyatt Earp); providing some history of the region and of other gold rushes; giving deeper biographical information for some of the players; and describing the geography, weather, and modes of transportation and communication. Starobin begins with the discovery of gold before digging into the initial claims (some of the more surprising ones: on Nome’s Bering Sea beaches). The author then discusses McKenzie before telling us about his decision to go to Nome—and what he did when he got there. Using his considerable political influence, McKenzie got friendly local judges appointed and was cruising along—conning and usurping—when a court case on the issues ended up, on appeal, in the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. Also appearing in the narrative are President William McKinley, Attorneys General John W. Griggs and Philander C. Knox, and the members of the 9th Circuit. Tacit analogies to today’s political conditions abound, and while the occasional dense detail may be off-putting for some readers, the story is entertaining.

Sturdy research and clear prose reveal some truly abominable snowmen wreaking havoc in Alaska.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-4230-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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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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