A well-fleshed-out biography featuring an appropriate amount of historical context.

THE AGITATOR

WILLIAM BAILEY AND THE FIRST AMERICAN UPRISING AGAINST NAZISM

A biography of an important 20th-century activist who was one of the first to stand up to “the well-publicized injustices of the Third Reich.”

The subject of Duffy’s (Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring, 2014, etc.) latest is Bill Bailey (1915-1995), a merchant seaman with little formal education who joined the American Communist Party as a teenager and became increasingly angry about the U.S. government appeasing Hitler during his rise to power and subsequent comprehensive repression of any form of dissent. Bailey’s fleeting fame occurred when he and a few like-minded Nazi haters boarded the Bremen, “the flagship of Hitler’s commercial armada,” in New York Harbor in 1935. A dress-up party was in progress to celebrate the departure of the massive ship. Bailey and his colleagues had devised a plan to scale the mast and remove the Nazi flag, which featured a swastika. The plan succeeded, becoming “the first blow landed against the Third Reich by foreign adversaries, delivered without guns or bomb, years before America, or any country, chose to take military action against a regime that was already signaling its treacherous intentions.” However, local authorities, feeling duty-bound to protect a foreign vessel against politically oriented trespassers, arrested Bailey and a few accomplices. Throughout the narrative, Duffy offers detailed sections about the Bremen and its impressive luxury, the duties of merchant mariners, the American Communist Party, Hitler’s rise, the German persecution of Jews, and the failure of most Americans—including President Franklin Roosevelt—to counteract the evils of Nazism in the early 1930s. In addition, the author critiques the criminal justice system as he provides detailed coverage of the trial that resulted in the acquittals of Bailey and his colleagues. After the acquittal, Bailey remained a political activist, union organizer, and merchant mariner, serving in World War II. For the last few decades of his life, he remained out of the spotlight.

A well-fleshed-out biography featuring an appropriate amount of historical context.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6231-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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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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