Vigorous storytelling at the intersection of sports and crime history.



An intriguing, long-overlooked tale from the annals of early professional football.

Sid Luckman (1916-1998), writes Rosen (Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust’s Hidden Child Survivors, 2014, etc.), “once led the most feared team in the National Football League—the ‘Monsters of the Midway’—to five national championship appearances and four titles in seven years,” a gridiron hero lionized by a generation but then, it seems, definitively forgotten. In opening, the author wonders why, noting that Luckman, a quarterback who did much to popularize the pro game, had never before been the subject of a biography. Luckman wasn’t much to sing his own praises, granted, but there was also something that he wanted to distance himself from—namely, his father’s involvement in the Jewish/Italian crime syndicate called Murder, Inc., involvement that included the murder of his brother-in-law and a long stretch in prison. “He chose to spare his loved ones the burden he was used to carrying almost alone,” writes Rosen, and so Luckman did, even if the game he played was not without its criminal aspects, mostly the gambling that surrounded it. As the author notes, Luckman’s name did once “show up in one inconvenient place”: the notebook kept by a mobster who specialized in sports gambling. Luckman did his best to play through the personal turmoil, throwing 135 touchdown passes in his first 10 seasons and becoming a master of the T formation but then fading away in the 1950s. There are many moving parts to the story, and Rosen does a good job of keeping the narrative clear and moving smoothly. One of the more complex of those parts highlights the political uses the Manhattan district attorney, Thomas Dewey, made of the prosecution of Murder, Inc.’s chiefs, who fell one by one.

Vigorous storytelling at the intersection of sports and crime history.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2944-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2019

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.


A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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