Despite the breathless title, this is an accomplished history of an iconic battle.



Sturdy account of the Civil War’s most significant naval battle.

Keith and Clavin, co-authors of All Blood Runs Red, once again join forces in this naval history that emphasizes commerce raiding and the lives of the captains of the vessels involved. Commissioned a midshipman for the Confederate Navy at age 16, Raphael Semmes eventually became commander of the fearsome raider CSS Alabama. At the time, British law forbade supplying warships to “belligerents,” but officials paid little attention as Southern agents found a shipbuilder willing to construct a vessel purportedly for private use. The ship sailed to the Azores, where another ship loaded with military supplies completed its conversion; on Aug. 24, 1862, it officially became the Alabama. Over the following two years, it captured perhaps 65 Union merchantmen. This barely touched the massive Union economy, but by 1863, pressure from infuriated ship owners persuaded the government to take action. The authors follow with a biography of John Winslow, captain of the Alabama’s nemesis, the USS Kearsarge. Both Semmes and Winslow had largely undistinguished prewar careers, but Winslow, a North Carolinian, stuck with the Union and received orders to track down the Alabama. Unfortunately for him, “when Alabama was in the Atlantic the chances of her heaving into view of the Ke­arsarge were infinitesimally small.” After more than a year, Winslow decided to pay special attention to ports along the English Channel, which Semmes seemed to prefer for resupply. Sure enough, in June 1864, the Alabama docked at Cherbourg, and Winslow and crew got to work. Although they produce a gripping read, Keith and Clavin do not overdramatize the battle. After years at sea with no major overhaul, the Alabama was no match for the well-prepared Kearsarge, whose modern guns pummeled it mercilessly, sinking it. Winslow was a hero, and in the South, so was Semmes. Both lived modest but prosperous lives into the following decade.

Despite the breathless title, this is an accomplished history of an iconic battle.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-335-47141-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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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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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

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