Fast-paced, clearly written account of how justice was served in a difficult wartime case.

HUMAN GAME

THE TRUE STORY OF THE "GREAT ESCAPE" MURDERS AND THE HUNT FOR THE GESTAPO GUNMEN

The truth about the murders of 50 airmen who escaped from a top-security World War II prison camp and how the Third Reich's killers were brought to justice.

Read (War of Words: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder, 2009, etc.) draws heavily on the British Royal Air Force Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) case files to put together the story of what happened after the events portrayed in the 1963 movie The Great Escape. Supposedly escape-proof in design and construction, Stalag Luft III became the holding pen for a multinational contingent of repeat escapees. Six hundred were involved in organizing the plot intended to free 250 from confinement. Read shows how the escape shocked Hitler and the Nazi security services high command, resulting in a nationwide manhunt for the escapees. The men were summarily executed upon capture and cremated anonymously. The SIB detailed a task force of 21 investigators and 16 translators to track down the killers. They identified 72 members of the Gestapo, SS and Kripo chains of command who played an active part in the murders; of them, 21 were sentenced to death by hanging, 17 to prison terms. (Others had died during the war or committed suicide.) The guilty included fanatics like Wilhelm Scharpwinkel, head of the Breslau Gestapo, and Johannes Post, the deputy Gestapo chief and executioner in Kiel. Read provides an admirable record of the meticulous police work involved in accumulating proof sufficient for prosecution and conviction. The RAF detail started from scratch and had to use many different methods to reconstruct personnel and their units and to identify the 72 found responsible.

Fast-paced, clearly written account of how justice was served in a difficult wartime case.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-25273-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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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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