Shafer makes his readers feel that we are not alone—not the first and, sadly, not the last to be bamboozled.



A history of the 1840 campaign, “the mother of modern presidential contests” and “the beginning of presidential campaigning as entertainment.”

They were hard times: jobs were scarce, farmers couldn’t get decent prices for crops, and voters were just angry. Before the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, politicians were not that different from today; they just used different tools. William Henry Harrison’s backers focused on how best to sell their candidate, how to disparage his opponent, and how to appeal to the newly enfranchised middle class. At the very beginning, they had to erase the Whig Party’s image as representing the rich. That was easy enough to do as they pictured “Old Tippecanoe” with a symbol of a log cabin–dwelling, hard cider–drinking soldier. Never mind that his heroic victory at Tippecanoe was actually a huge loss after a surprise attack or that Harrison and his vice presidential nominee, John Tyler, were both born and raised in considerable comfort on plantations. The “firsts” of this campaign illustrate just how creative they were: it was the first to merchandise a candidate; the first to focus on an image; the first to hold huge public rallies; the first nomination decided in a smoke-filled room; and the first candidate to actually campaign. Former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Shafer (When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms: Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn's Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890, 2011, etc.) catches all the new twists of the campaign, from women joining in rallies to Horace Greeley’s newly formed newspaper. The author’s writing skills are unassailable, although we could do with fewer parade descriptions. The Democratic Review’s comment says it all: “The Whig campaign was indeed a national insult to the intelligence of the American people…a political phenomenon, so unexpected, so astonishing that Democrats would be wrong to blame the loss simply on the ‘vulgar herd.’ ”

Shafer makes his readers feel that we are not alone—not the first and, sadly, not the last to be bamboozled.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61373-540-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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

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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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