A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019


This thorough appraisal of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination addresses the theory that John Wilkes Booth was part of a multifaceted conspiracy directed by Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin.

Prindle (Revolution II, 2012, etc.) begins with the 1864 Dahlgren affair. After a failed Union raid on Richmond, Southerners published documents found on Union Army Lt. Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s corpse that mentioned a plan to destroy the city and kill Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet. Prindle sets aside the enduring debate over their authenticity but asserts that Benjamin, who directed the Confederate Secret Service, believed them to be genuine. Prindle argues that Confederates were involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln, spirit him to Richmond, and ransom many prisoners, which then led to retributive schemes to decapitate the Union government. Through 17 brisk chapters, the author sketches the Confederate officials, undercover operatives, and civilians who advanced the conspiracy. He tracks clandestine activities from Virginia to Maryland to Canada, connecting dots while adding detailed context. Prindle effectively captures the complexity and chaos of the war’s final months: Battlefield losses mounted, Lincoln won reelection, Confederate desperation grew, and after Richmond fell, a kidnapping plot became untenable. Booth found his own plot competing with another to blow up a portion of the White House during a Cabinet session. Prindle identifies the only official who could have authorized either plan, other than Davis himself: Benjamin, who escaped to England with a fortune from the Confederate treasury. Prindle, an author of three novels, displays fluent storytelling, rendering familiar history as a page-turner. His abundant endnotes and synthesis of obscure details ably reflect his 30-year avocation of studying and lecturing about the Civil War as an independent scholar. A retired justice of the peace, Prindle’s granular accounting of the military tribunal, the executions of the conspirators, and the legal aftermath showcases his full skill set and typifies his discerning approach. Throughout, he gives competing views their due and carefully supports his own. Prindle’s conclusion relies on an “unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence,” as he admits, but readers need not be wholly persuaded to find it worthwhile reading.

A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2473-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet