Meticulous chronicle of perhaps the most audacious pirate raid in history.

On the Caribbean side of the Audiencia of Panamá, the city of Portobello welcomed Spanish ships carrying manufactured goods critical to the West Indian empire’s maintenance. On the Pacific side of the narrow isthmus lay the city of Panamá, where ships laden with silver from Peru off-loaded their treasure onto mule trains headed to Portobello for galleons returning to Spain. By 1666, it had been almost 70 years since English privateer Francis Drake had seriously threatened the area’s security. In the meantime, her treasury drained by incessant war and the cost of servicing her far-flung colonies, Spain’s power waned, her vigilance relaxed and her defense of the Caribbean grew thin and rusty. From his base on Jamaica, Privateer Henry Morgan noticed. Taking full advantage of Spanish decay and the vast distances and slow communications that allowed him to ignore whatever peace agreement Europe had concluded, Morgan (making sly use of commissions issued by Jamaica’s governor, Thomas Modyford, that lent legal cover to his operations) brought Spain to her knees. Earle (Economic History/Univ. of London; The Pirate Wars, 2005, etc.) focuses on the five-year period featuring a series of pirate attacks and Spanish counterthrusts that culminated in the audacious 1671 raid on Portobello and the looting of Panamá, which cemented Morgan’s reputation as history’s greatest pirate commander, whose effectiveness was exceeded only by his brutality. Relying mostly on letters, reports and legal documents, the author has pieced together a fascinating tale that’s especially strong in recounting the Spaniards’ mostly hapless response to Morgan’s depredations and in delineating how piracy thrived within the interstices of law and diplomacy. Earle also explains why, once launched on their dubious missions, irregular forces of men who thought nothing of rape, torture or any despicable tactic to gain their objective, nonetheless strictly adhered to self-made codes of conduct and elaborate conventions that governed the division of spoils.

A well-told adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-36142-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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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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