OUR MAN IN BELIZE

A MEMOIR

Conroy has redirected his gift for goofy storytelling (The India Expedition, 1992; Old Ways in the New World, 1994) from the fictional accounts of foreign-affairs officer Henry Scruggs to a memoir of his years in what was then British Honduras. Searching for a workplace less toxic than the hydrogen-bomb facility where he was employed, Conroy responded to a newspaper want ad at the suggestion of his wife, and found himself in the US Foreign Service. After an initial posting in Washington, where he undertook ``unimportant, but urgent and high-priority'' tasks, Conroy was appointed vice consul to British Honduras. Upon his arrival to what his obnoxious, and ultimately untrustworthy, boss calls ``in back of beyond,'' Conroy and his young family were temporarily housed in the residence of the local USAID official, who had just committed suicide. The consul introduced Conroy to members of the local diplomatic circle with witty and appallingly rude characterizations, but the new vice consul soon learned there was little cause for discomfort, as no offense was taken. In Honduras his tasks were never urgent or high-priority, but they were extremely important: instructing shippers to mark boxes of needed tires with dog food labels to get them past sticky-fingered customs agents; covering up his accidental opening of mail sent to another nation's consulate; and killing poisonous snakes. When the devastating hurricane Hattie hit the city in 1961, Conroy survived and restored the consulate to some semblance of working order without any help from his superior, who had fled. After a few run-ins with a comical ex-patriate, who eagerly informed on drug runners in the hopes of receiving reward money, Conroy was reassigned to Vienna, where we are to assume things got much more serious. While Conroy admittedly takes a little license with the facts (which he attributes to poor memory), this is an enjoyable account from the eyes of a colonial-era bureaucrat.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-16959-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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