Readers with a serious interest in Cochise’s life and times will prefer less self-conscious lives, such as Edwin Sweeney’s...

COCHISE

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE GREAT APACHE CHIEF

A well-intentioned but unsatisfying life of the Apache warrior, “arguably the only Native American leader to actually win his war with the United States of America.”

Aleshire (American Studies/Arizona State Univ.; The Fox and the Whirlwind: General George Crook and Geronimo, 2000), begins his life of Cochise, the great Chiricahua Apache fighter and strategist, with an apology: because the conventional historiography of the 19th-century American West does not often allow for Native American voices, he asserts, he has had to use considerable invention in looking at Apache history from an Apache point of view. That’s all well and good, but Aleshire takes a few long stretches in recounting the eventful, violence-plagued life of Cochise (1804?–74), who had his hands full battling Mexicans and Americans while trying to secure a homeland that would be safe from intruders, while at the same time trying to rein in ambitious, bellicose compatriots like Geronimo. For one thing, Aleshire attributes to Cochise ideas and statements that no reliable history corroborates (“Cochise especially liked this story,” he writes at one point before relating a folktale gathered by an anthropologist in the late 1930s); for another, he tends to crib rather heavily from the ethnographic literature, and the best lines here are often those of writers such as Morris Opler, Eve Ball, and Keith Basso; for still another, Aleshire has an unfortunate habit of writing in a sort of noble-savage pastiche that’s thick with simile from the Chief Dan George school of Indian rhetoric (“Cochise felt caught in the midst of his enemies, like the deer who hears the echo of the wolves ahead and behind”; “He had steeled his heart, like a knife heated and quenched”; “Now Cochise’s heart leaped up in his chest, like an eagle lunging against a tether”). The surfeit of conjecture, sentimentality, and stentorian tone works, in the end, against Aleshire’s reliability as a narrator and historian, and it makes this a chore to read.

Readers with a serious interest in Cochise’s life and times will prefer less self-conscious lives, such as Edwin Sweeney’s Cochise and David Roberts’s Once They Moved Like the Wind, to Aleshire’s imaginative treatment.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-471-38363-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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