A thrilling, well-researched tale of espionage that has all the spycraft hallmarks of a blockbuster movie.

THE MAN WITH THE POISON GUN

A COLD WAR SPY STORY

The story of Ukrainian Bogdan Stashinsky’s rise from an agricultural student to a KGB assassin who defected to the West in 1961.

Stashinsky’s career as a member of the Soviet secret police did not have an auspicious beginning. As an aspiring university student during the postwar Soviet occupation of Ukraine, he had family ties to the nationalist underground and was sympathetic to anti-Soviet groups. Local Soviet officials knew this well and blackmailed Stashinsky by giving him an ultimatum: betray his loyalties or watch the Soviets persistently harass and potentially assassinate his family members. He chose to collaborate with his occupiers. However, Stashinsky was quickly outed and shunned by his family; with nowhere else to turn, he accepted an offer to join the MGB, a precursor to the KGB. So began his rise as a professional assassin. With gusto and verve, Plokhy (Ukrainian History/Harvard Univ.; The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, 2015, etc.) details Stashinsky’s intelligence work in East Germany, where he eventually received assignments to assassinate dissident journalist Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. To complete the deed, he was given a novel device that shot untraceable poison directly into the face of his victims. However, Stashinsky was a reluctant assassin and was eager for reassignment to the West. Upon being recalled to Moscow with his wife—and much KGB meddling with their personal affairs—he decided to make a daring escape and defect to West Germany. Ironically, Stashinsky had to prove that he had killed Rebet and Bandera in order to save himself, though that was easier said than done. More than just the story of Stashinsky’s involvement with the KGB, the book wonderfully details the entire intelligence milieu of postwar Germany, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe, including the paranoid atmosphere created by the legions of secret police that had taken hold throughout the region.

A thrilling, well-researched tale of espionage that has all the spycraft hallmarks of a blockbuster movie.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-03590-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...

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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