Powerful portrait of a publisher who became the voice of Middle America during the nation’s deepest crisis.

HORACE GREELEY

CHAMPION OF AMERICAN FREEDOM

A comprehensive biography of Greeley (1811–72), deftly analyzing the price he paid to brook no intrusion, partisan or otherwise, on his principles.

Fresh from apprenticing as a typesetter in small printing shops in New England and upstate New York, the 23-year-old Greeley arrived in New York City to found the weekly opinion journal, the New Yorker, in 1834. Seven years later, he started a newspaper, the Herald Tribune. By hiring savvy reporters and columnists like Samuel Clemens (even Karl Marx was a foreign contributor) Greeley built the Trib into perhaps the world’s most widely read daily, and the most trusted in America at the time of the Civil War. He beat the drum for an expansionist—“go West”—America based on freedom and equal opportunity for all; free, that is, from the institution of slavery Greeley had come to abhor. To maintain integrity by his own standard, Williams stresses, Greeley not only had to turn against the Republican Party he helped found, but also to criticize the president he had anointed. (Lincoln himself, however, never wavered in his regard for Greeley, once a fellow Congressman who, when appointed to fill an open seat, dared call Honest Abe to account for padding his travel expenses.) Even after he had “committed political suicide,” Williams notes, by funding a bail bond for former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Greeley entered the 1872 campaign opposing U.S. Grant as the presidential candidate of the reformist Liberal Republican party and, without seeking it, also won the Democrats’ nomination. His former Republican cohorts promptly moved to discredit him with vicious attacks tying him to everything from the Ku Klux Klan to New York’s ultra-corrupt Boss Tweed administration. The experience, the author reckons, likely hastened his death.

Powerful portrait of a publisher who became the voice of Middle America during the nation’s deepest crisis.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8147-9402-5

Page Count: 424

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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