Plimpton or Mailer it isn’t—not even Cosell. Still, fans of the sweet science should enjoy this shaggy yarn of a bygone...



Former Sports Illustrated senior writer Hoffer (Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, 2009, etc.) turns in a sprawling piece on the “riotous roundelay” that was the battle of three boxers for the world championship.

The author locates that competition within brackets of great historical events: the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the fall of Saigon and, in between, Kent State, when, in a curious turn of phrase, he notes that National Guardsmen killed four college students “for no real good reason.” That throwaway phrase is symptomatic, for while Hoffer certainly knows his story and his actors, he infuses it with a know-it-all casualness that can be grating at times. Would Ali, Frazier and Foreman really have been “athletic footnotes” in another era? Not likely: All three were staggering, scary, brilliant fighters, each in his own way, with Ali (whose conversion to Islam, Hoffer writes, might have branded him as a “religious kook” had he not redeemed himself by refusing to serve in the military) blessed with a devastatingly poetic wit atop it all. Hoffer’s sociology is suspect and too often heavy-handed. His account of the actual fighting, though, is immediate and arresting. The same holds for his portrait of the swirling sideshow that surrounded the three, with Ali delivering, for instance, “an unrelenting attack on Frazier’s intelligence,” Frazier responding with “classic menace” and Foreman coolly assessing the weird international arenas in which they were thrust. There’s not much here that can’t be found in the grand documentary film When We Were Kings, but Hoffer offers plenty of reasons why we should still remember, and esteem, the lethal trio for more than bucking the draft and hawking stovetop grills.

Plimpton or Mailer it isn’t—not even Cosell. Still, fans of the sweet science should enjoy this shaggy yarn of a bygone contest and era.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-306-82222-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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