This factual account of the Battle of the Alamo brings more vigorous personalities to life and effects more dramatic contrasts than many of its fictional competitors. Not only does Robert Penn Warren delineate battle strategies; he clarifies the ambitions and personal histories of the adversaries who met at Bexar and lays bare the stakes for which the battle was fought. The claims and crises of both Mexico and of the American settlers, desperadoes, and outlaws who lived in the no-man's-land state are dissected. Texas, hoping for equal rights in the new Mexico, after Spanish dominion was ousted, was settled 4-1 by ex-Americans. Then American immigration was halted by law — bringing to an end hopes of prosperity. And the rise of dictator Santa Anna meant an end to hopes for impartial jurisprudence. Boys and girls with any appetite for historical information will endorse this.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 1958

ISBN: 1596872616

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1958

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More than 170 former law clerks—and at least some of the Justices—have broken the Supreme Court's traditional silence; and the result is a searing account of the Court's inner workings from 1967 to 1975 that shows the Chief Justice to be a fool and quite possibly a scoundrel, that exposes the other Justices to ridicule and contempt, that casts doubt on the highest court as a judicious arbiter of anything. Whether or not this wholesale disrobing is a good thing, it was probably inevitable once Burger, newly installed as Chief, attempted to muzzle his law clerks and went on to flout the Court's rules of procedure—withholding his vote so he could join the majority and assign himself the writing of the opinion. In rebuttal, the other Brethren ganged up on him—determined not to let his unrepresentative views pass as the majority opinion, not to let his ineptly drafted opinions go on public record and become legal precedent. Ultimately they succeeded in stealing his majority: a dissent draft-opinion became the 7-1 choice. Its announcement stands, here, as the book's dramatic peak. What the reader sees, then, is a lawless court, ruled by the vanities and proclivities of men. Woodward and Armstrong would not, however, call it a Burger Court: with the ends increasingly polarized (Brennan and Marshall vs. Burger and Rehnquist), with the Chief a legal featherweight and a flagrant usurper, the nonideological craftsmen of the center—they contend—took control. This assessment is not entirely borne out by post-1975 rulings, many of them written by Rehnquist for the majority; but it is incidental to the book's impact. With every legal and extra-legal mo, explicated, with comings-and-goings and conversations recounted in creepy de tail ("The door to Stewart's inner office was open, and they heard someone come into the outer office. There was a moment of silence. . ."), it makes compulsive, unnerving, electric reading. Here is an elderly, intractable Hugo Black invoking a technicality to thwart the majority and bar innumerable Blackmun was dumbfounded. . . now he was a petitioners from the courts ("justice and had the same power"); here is Douglas, "never a man to procrastinate before wreaking havoc," sending a savage memo to the Chief (text provided); here is Stewart, haunted by the Sherlock Holmes case of "the dog that didn't bark," suspecting the Chief of "purposely leaving unanswered some crucial, but hidden, question." And, for comic relief, here are the annual (blue) "movie days." But only once, apropos of Douglas and two put-upon clerks, does the account become truly petty, and only very infrequently are thoughts imputed for which there is no plausible source. Dirty linen or not, most of this has to be believed—and it's dynamite.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0743274024

Page Count: 596

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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The journalist is Joe McGinniss. The murderer is Jeffrey MacDonald, subject of McGinniss' best-selling Fatal Vision, The relationship between the two is the paradigm for Malcolm's stinging indictment of all journalists' relationships to their subjects—an indictment that created a furor when published last year in the New Yorker, and which is here reprinted in full, with a new, slippery afterword by Malcolm. Malcolm flings the gauntlet: "Every journalist. . .knows that what he does is morally indefensible." Why? Because "he is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse." Case in point: McGinniss' alleged con of MacDonald. MacDonald claimed in a 1984 lawsuit that McGinniss had committed fraud and breach of contract by leading him to believe, through letters of support and years of friendship, that Fatal Vision would proclaim MacDonald's innocence, while instead the book portrayed him as a guilty psychopath. Malcolm diligently sifts through the lawsuit—including trial testimony by Joseph Wambaugh and William Buckley that defended a journalist's right to mislead a subject in order to get a story—and follows up with interviews with the lawyers, with expert witnesses, and with MacDonald (after initial contact, McGinniss broke off all ties to Malcolm). The jury favored MacDonald 5-1; McGinniss finally paid a six-figure out-of-court settlement to him. Malcolm sides with the jury, finding in her own relationships with her subjects, particularly MacDonald, reflections of the case's moral conundrums; in her afterword, she comments bitingly on criticisms of that finding, but glibly sidesteps charges that she had been inspired, at least in part, by her own—conveniently unmentioned—suffering by lawsuits directed at her by psychologist Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, subject of her book In the Freud Archives (1984). Strident in tone, overbearing in conclusion; but of major interest and importance for exposing profound ethical questions that before now have festered behind the stony shield of journalistic privilege.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1990

ISBN: 0679731830

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1990

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