A bracing work by a masterly historian whose great knowledge portrays the “dramatic symbolic significance” of this landmark...

THE ACCURSED TOWER

THE FALL OF ACRE AND THE END OF THE CRUSADES

A history of the 1291 siege of Acre that brings the convoluted give-and-take between Muslim and Christian entities to vivid life and relevance.

Beginning in the 12th century, Acre helped hold together the “Frankish” principalities along the Mediterranean shore of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, aka the Outremer, which was established during the First Crusade (1096-1099) in the wake of Muslim onslaught. An ancient strategic site, writes Crowley (Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, 2015, etc.), Acre first “fell to Islam in 636.” In 1104, it was taken by Baldwin of Boulogne, the “first crusader King of Jerusalem,” and became the “chief landing place for pilgrims and the armies to protect them.” The Muslims regained the city in 1187. However, in a 683-day battering siege of the city’s ramparts (1189-1191), the Christians, led by Richard I “Lionheart” of England and others, defeated the Muslims, who were led by Saladin, prince of the Ayyubid dynasty. It was a “titanic” battle that came down to Acre’s so-called Accursed Tower, located in the most fortified area. Yet instead of extending mercy to the inhabitants, as Saladin had done to the Christians, Richard had approximately 3,000 Muslim defenders beheaded. This development set the “bitter legacy” for the final retaking of Acre from the Christians by the Muslims exactly 100 years later. Crowley adeptly builds the detail and suspense that led up to this extraordinary last pitched battle, which involved the might of the ascendant Mamluks, or the Turkish slaves who would become sultans, and their incomparable skills and resources, such as the awesome trebuchet. Led by the fearless Sultan Khalil, the Mamluks took the city by surprise in several weeks, with people attempting in vain to flee by ship. As the author writes in this exciting, sleek narrative, “the looting was feverish and spectacular.” At the end of the book, the author also provides a useful section on “the evidence for the fall of Acre.”

A bracing work by a masterly historian whose great knowledge portrays the “dramatic symbolic significance” of this landmark event.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9734-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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