At times repetitive or obvious, but always literate and learned. (16 pp. illustrations, 9 maps, not seen)

Important analysis of a fierce first-century surprise attack by German tribesmen that ended Rome’s designs on territory east of the Rhine and profoundly altered subsequent history.

Wells (Archaeology/Univ. of Minnesota) argues convincingly that both archaeologists and historians must contribute to understandings of long-ago events. (Naturally, he believes the former are less subject to bias since histories are written by the victors.) The site of this little-known battle was not located until 1987. Since then the four-by-three-mile location has yielded a trove of relics; more than 4,000 Roman objects had been recovered by the end of 1999. The author’s account of the battle consumes only a single short chapter and is admittedly heavily inferential: the surviving written accounts are scanty (and Roman); the archaeological evidence is still being uncovered and assessed. Still, Wells is able not only to reconstruct a credible analysis of the German strategy—pinning the Romans into a tight area of unforgiving forest and marshy terrain in which they could not execute their customary combat tactics—but also to explore the thoughts and fears of the combatants on both sides as the massacre commenced. In about an hour it was all over but the dying and scavenging, the burying and celebrating, the torturing and sacrificing of prisoners. Three Roman legions, some 20,000 men, were destroyed; a very few survivors escaped to spread the news. The Roman leader, Varus, a trusted ally of Augustus, probably fell on his sword when he saw the imminent defeat. The German leader, Arminius, became a folk hero: though trained by the Romans and granted citizenship, he gave the treacherous intelligence that led the legions to the slaughter. Wells offers much background on Roman and Rhineland history, politics, anthropology, military strategy, and weaponry, supplying myriad grisly instances of the sanguinary horrors of war. Ultimately, Rome vastly underestimated the “barbarians” they faced.

At times repetitive or obvious, but always literate and learned. (16 pp. illustrations, 9 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-02028-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003


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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