This engrossing biography of an often excruciatingly difficult though uniquely gifted actor should encourage readers to seek...



The life and career of enigmatic stage and film actor Peter O’Toole (1932-2013).

Contemporary audiences may best know O’Toole from his luminous portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, but he had a varied career that spanned several decades, earning him significant critical notice through the years and an impressive eight Academy Award nominations. O’Toole rode the crest of his stardom in the 1960s, when, fresh from his star-making turn as Lawrence, he was busily sought after for numerous leading film roles. Yet his increasing alcohol consumption and a habitually chaos-driven personal life frequently intersected with his professional pursuits and gradually began to undermine his career. Sellers (What Fresh Lunacy Is This?: The Authorised Biography of Oliver Reed, 2013, etc.) provides a well-researched and colorful overview of O’Toole’s background, from his earliest theatrical performances through the many films and stage productions of later years. The author also focuses a lot of attention on the destructive side of his subject’s personality, diligently tracking every extended pub crawl and public disturbance he caused. O’Toole’s high jinks were often in the company of other notable talents of his generation, several of whom have become inebriated legends in their own rights, including actors Richard Burton and Richard Harris, who, together with O’Toole and Oliver Reed, were the subject of an earlier Sellers biography, Hellraisers (2009). Chronicling the latter portion of O’Toole’s career, with his stardom diminished and a few life-threatening episodes forcing him to abstain, at least somewhat, from drinking, the author gradually shifts his focus to O’Toole’s craft as an actor and his particular skills for building his performances. This approach leads to greater insight into his personality and provides more depth to the narrative.

This engrossing biography of an often excruciatingly difficult though uniquely gifted actor should encourage readers to seek out some of O’Toole’s many memorable film performances.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-09594-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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