Offers revealing historical perspectives enlivened, but not swamped, by vivid accounts of blood-and-guts encounters.

THE PIRATE WARS

Earle (Economic History/Univ. of London) spans the spectrum of high-seas piracy from its Elizabethan origins to its final throttling by reenergized Western naval might nearly two centuries later.

Piracy was endemic in 16th-century Europe, notes the author, but only England was called “a nation of pirates,” thanks to the unofficially tolerated adventuring of privateers like Sir Francis Drake. These gentleman captains sailed under powerful sponsorship and were often used as a subtle instrument of policy by Tudor monarchs. Their mission was to harry the Tudors’ archenemy, Catholic Spain, which they did as much under the banner of Protestantism as that of Mother England. The privateers’ 17th-century Muslim counterparts, known as Corsairs, also practiced this piratical form of religious persecution. Launching from the Barbary Coast of North Africa and the Levant, these unabashed Christian-hunters ranged from the Mediterranean as far west as the Atlantic coast of Ireland, plundering unprotected towns for slaves and booty. Among the many common misconceptions about piracy that Earle challenges is the quick-and-dirty encounter popularized in Hollywood swashbucklers: a cunning maneuver under sail, a fatal burst of cannon fire, grappling hooks, flashing cutlasses, and a round of rum for the men. In fact, the author reports, buccaneers often tied alongside a potential prize and drifted with it for a week or more as the captors repeatedly paid “visits” to search for plunder, exact vengeance (including torture) on those who had resisted too vigorously, and rape any female passengers whose rank was insufficient to offer either protection or potential for ransom. During piracy’s Golden Age (1715–25) in the Caribbean, where treaties of peace agreed to and enacted in Europe were essentially ignored, egalitarianism became an oddly dominant factor. Crews elected their captains, decided on the venue and scope of their mission, determined how spoils would be divided, and sailed “against the world” under the black flag and their own rigid code of ethics.

Offers revealing historical perspectives enlivened, but not swamped, by vivid accounts of blood-and-guts encounters.

Pub Date: April 14, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33579-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

more