ANCIENT MYSTERIES

A thoughtful and absorbing analysis of more than 30 of the most intriguing artifacts, occurrences, and myths of the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval worlds, by freelancer James and archaeologist Thorpe (King Alfred’s College, UK). Conundrums like the mythical lost continent of Atlantis, the legend of King Arthur, the Easter Island statues, and the curse of Tutankhamen have been overworked in recent years by cultists and speculative writers, who have often, without the benefit of critical scholarship and analysis, propounded outlandish and even bizarre theories. Too often, debunkers have responded simply by dismissing such theories rather than by inquiring more closely into the mysteries themselves. Marshaling the most current evidence in each case, the authors here endeavor “to chart a middle course between the uncritical enthusiasts and the professional skeptics.” James and Thorpe explore lost civilizations and the catastrophes that destroyed them, astronomical phenomena, architectural wonders, ancient reworkings of the landscape, voyages and discoveries, ancient myths and legends, hoaxes, and supernatural occurrences. Some myths, like that of the lost continent of Atlantis or that of the Christian African king “Prester John,” turn out to have been precisely that—either gross embellishments of real events or total fabrications. Others, like the Star of Bethlehem (the authors conclude that the Star may have actually been Halley’s comet in 12—11 B.C.), King Arthur (possibly a historical Dark Ages warlord named Riothamus), and Robin Hood (among other theories, a servant of Edward II), appear to have some arguable historical basis. Among other enigmas, the authors plumb Stonehenge (a neolithic sun temple, not built by the Druids), the legend of Dracula, a lost Roman army that may have found its way to China, a Viking rune-stone in Minnesota (a likely hoax), and an ancient visit by a Welsh prince to America (just possibly true) An engrossing journey through the riddles of the distant past. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Quality Paperback Book Club selection.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-345-40195-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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