A welcome addition to the military history of Vietnam.



Taut, well-written account of an unknown chapter in the Vietnam War: the perilous work of forward aerial observers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Many brave Air Force flyers populate the pages of this collaboration by U.S. News and World Report writer Newman and Misty pilot Shepperd (Misty pilots, whose name comes, improbably, from a Johnny Mathis song, flew 247 Vietnam combat missions), but few braver than Howard Keith Williams, the Top Gun who graduated from flying transport planes to jockeying fighters up and down the most dangerous skies in Vietnam. Recruited by Dick Rutan (who in 1986 completed a nonstop solo flight around the world in a plane called Voyager) to join the unit called Commando Sabre, Williams and his comrades performed the equivalent of a ground tracker’s cutting for sign, flying just above the treetops to look for telltale dust kicked up by tanks and trucks, for tire tracks that ended abruptly (indicating a transport park) and for people and vehicles moving supplies from North to South Vietnam. The Misty pilots were the secret eyes and ears of the war, though they had to deal with generally unhelpful brass (of one superior officer, a Misty pilot protested, “The guy doesn’t give a shit about our war up north”) and had as well to contend with a crippling lack of coordination with other intelligence agencies, especially the CIA. Still, the Misty pilots provided invaluable information to American ground forces on enemy movements, suffering terrible losses in the bargain; some pilots ended up in the Hanoi Hilton, while others—including Williams, who had come in the meanwhile to regard the war as a “farce”—were killed in action. Indeed, Williams’s remains would not be recovered for 25 years, though they were not buried upside down—“So the world can kiss our ass,” as the pilots’ bawdy theme song put it.

A welcome addition to the military history of Vietnam.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46537-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Presidio/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?