In a world that often seems permeated with cruelty and indifference, why are there always a few people actively engaged in rescuing others, even at enormous personal risk? Examining this phenomenon of radical altruism comprised much of the life work of the late Hallie. This beautiful book, written with what might be called disciplined moral passion, consists of a distillation of his thoughts and own life experiences on the subject, filtered through some fascinating case studies. Hallie, a philosopher, was the author of the justly praised Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (1979), concerning the French village of Chambon, whose inhabitants sheltered over 5,000 Jews and other refugees during the Nazi occupation. His protagonists in that book were the Protestant pastor and his wife who rallied the villagers to the cause. Here Hallie broadens his focus, looking at the third actor in the story, Major Julius Schamling, who led the forces that occupied the town and repeatedly turned a ``blind eye'' to the rescue activities he knew were occurring there. Hallie devotes a long chapter to Joshua James, who for over 50 years in the late 19th century was a lifesaver of men in wrecked ships off the storm- swept coast of Massachusetts, and one to Katchen Coley, a contemporary of Hallie's who placed herself in great danger to help ex-convicts, drug addicts, and other troubled men. Hallie has thought deeply about why the overwhelming majority of us are morally passive, and he has some provocative things to say about the origins of such inclinations. He also notes instances where ``kindness can be cruelty to the recipient . . . you must look closely into the eyes of the recipient if you would know whether help has really happened.'' Such crisp, plain-spoken, and forceful prose exemplifies this fine summary of one of those very rare lives spent immersed, intellectually and personally, in issues of active moral engagement.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-018745-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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