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A deep-sea diver explores shipwrecks and his own character in this gripping scuba memoir.

Hunt (Angles of Attack: An A-6 Intruder Pilot’s War, 2002) revisits 30 years of shipwreck dives, a pastime whose lugubrious allure is only heightened by his vivid descriptions of the dangers. Chief among these are the hulks themselves, full of ensnaring electrical cables and silt, all of which becomes an impenetrable, disorienting cloud at the kick of a fin; one wrong turn in these pitch-black labyrinths, and a diver can be trapped in a watery tomb. Then there’s the sheer physiological challenge of penetrating an alien environment where breathing itself is a high-tech feat rife with fatal glitches. Carbon dioxide can build up to asphyxiating levels; nitrogen first intoxicates and then bubbles out of the blood to cause the bends; even oxygen becomes toxic and induces convulsions. Hunt’s well-paced narrative is full of underwater panics, nerve-wracking escapes and rescues that sometimes end in failure and death. He structures it around his dives to the wreck of the Italian cruise ship Andrea Doria, which sank in 240 feet of water off Nantucket in 1956—he includes a riveting account of the disaster and the blunders that caused it—and remains a magnet to divers because of its difficulty and wealth of fine china and other loot. Along the way he presents a lucid, engrossing study of the art of diving, introducing readers to the arcane gear, the constant attention to breathing, buoyancy and “situational awareness” the sport demands and the complex decompression routines that make surfacing take twice as long as the dive. Hunt’s three decades of Andrea Doria excursions also frame an affecting story of maturation and limits, as he ages from a strapping, reckless youth to a more cautious man in physical decline—a transformation that prepares him for the onset of Parkinson’s disease with the knowledge that “dying slowly is hard work.” Hunt’s taut scenes and meticulous prose will have readers holding their breath, but his saga probes hidden depths as well.


Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453734209

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012


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



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. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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