Given the complications of writing a comprehensive book about an octopuslike agency, Weinberger handles the material well....

THE IMAGINEERS OF WAR

THE UNTOLD STORY OF DARPA, THE PENTAGON AGENCY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

A journey through “the agency responsible for some of the most important military and civil technologies of the past hundred years.”

Intercept security editor Weinberger (Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld, 2006, etc.) again sets her sights on the Department of Defense, combining historical context with a focus on waste, fraud, and abuse in one realm of the gigantic government agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, often referred to by its acronym DARPA. Cobbled together in 1958 in the aftermath of Cold War panic that the Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik satellite, the original DARPA personnel felt uncertain about their mission. The already established military services of the Army, Navy, and Air Force seemed to overlap with DARPA’s amorphous mandate. Should a military agency control the government’s rush to match or surpass the Sputnik launch? (At that time, NASA had not yet been created.) Weinberger traces how the pieces fell into place, focusing first on a detailed history of William Godel, a former military member who remained in government as a negotiator with foreign leaders. Godel’s previously low profile receives a boost from Weinberger, a tireless researcher. The ascension of Godel leads to the crispest narrative in the book; after he exits, the story loses steam due to his many successors and the many disparate projects that ended up in DARPA’s jurisdiction. Some of those projects led, at least indirectly, to the valuable creation of the nonmilitary internet plus brilliant devices that could detect tests of nuclear weapons by foreign nations. But when DARPA personnel became deeply involved in strategies to fight insurgent wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the agency waded into controversial waters that caused damage to its standing within the Pentagon.

Given the complications of writing a comprehensive book about an octopuslike agency, Weinberger handles the material well. At times, though, the reading feels like parsing a government agency annual report.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-35179-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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