A well-conceived work of military history dissecting a seemingly minor episode that still speaks volumes.




A taut study of the largest military search-and-rescue operation in history and the lessons learned.

Talty (The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History, 2017, etc.) has a fascination for grim moments under seemingly impossible odds, as with the story that would eventually become the movie Captain Phillips. The yarn he spins here was already made into a movie three decades ago, the Gene Hackman vehicle Bat*21, recounting the harrowing experience of an Air Force navigator shot down over Vietnam in the late days of the war. Iceal “Gene” Hambleton (1918-2004) was one of the most experienced officers in the business, a master of signals intelligence whose capture by the North Vietnamese would probably have led to a strategic and propaganda victory not just for them, but also for the Soviet agents who were tracking him. Thus it was that when Hambleton’s plane went down under enemy fire, the commanders in Vietnam assembled “an armada of fighter planes, B-52s, attack helicopters, Navy aircraft carriers” to extract him from the field—to say nothing of soldiers, sailors, aviators, Marines, and special forces troops. As Talty recounts, for 11 days these allies raced against equally determined North Vietnamese troops to locate Hambleton, sometimes coming up against each other; among the costs of these extraordinary measures were the deaths of nearly a dozen airborne troops. Too young for service at the time, the author shows informed appreciation for military culture and the workings of war. As he writes, knowingly, “the men at Da Nang that spring would have loved to fight for values like freedom and liberty on behalf of a grateful republic. But as it was, their leaders were feckless, their country had forgotten them, and their allies rarely felt like allies….All they had, many airmen felt, was their unbreakable bond to one another.”

A well-conceived work of military history dissecting a seemingly minor episode that still speaks volumes.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-86672-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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