A brief, useful history of the conquerors who came from East and West to build a series of states that continue the fight to...

DEFENDING THE CITY OF GOD

A MEDIEVAL QUEEN, THE FIRST CRUSADES, AND THE QUEST FOR PEACE IN JERUSALEM

The author of The Real History Behind the Templars (2007) chronicles how the first two crusades helped establish the face of the Middle East.

Pope Urban II’s First Crusade brought a minor lord of France, Baldwin of le Bourq, to the Holy Land, and he married an Armenian noblewoman. It was their daughters, Melisende and Alice, who ended up ruling Jerusalem and Antioch—but it was far from a foregone conclusion. As Newman (Death Before Compline: Short Stories, 2012, etc.) writes, “[i]t would have been a brave prophet who would have dared to predict that Melisende would become queen of anything.” The author provides solid insight into the violent history of an area alternately claimed by Turks, Armenians, Jews, Franks (as the crusaders were called), and Shia and Sunni Muslims. Newman builds her story on the few sources available—e.g., the writings of Fulcher of Chartres and Ibn al-Qalanisi, both of which are decidedly skewed—and that difficulty impedes the flow of the narrative as it necessarily jumps from kingdom to kingdom. The author follows the daughters of Baldwin as their husbands are chosen: Melisende’s husband, Fulk of Anjou, was grandfather to Henry II of England, and he was to be a co-ruler and defender of her kingdom. Alice’s husband, Bohemond, died in battle, leaving her to defend and eventually rule Antioch. Raymond of Poitiers was brought in to be husband to Alice’s daughter, Constance, and he became uncle to Eleanor of Aquitaine, soon to arrive as part of the disastrous Second Crusade. “The damage done by the failed Second Crusade,” writes the author, “led to the rise of the emir Saladin and the fall of the city of Jerusalem to him twenty years after Melisende’s death.”

A brief, useful history of the conquerors who came from East and West to build a series of states that continue the fight to this day.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-137-27865-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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