A great spy novel—except that it’s all true.

THE WATCHERS

A SECRET HISTORY OF THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH I

Alford (History/Cambridge Univ.; Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2008, etc.) is an expert on all things Elizabethan, and his intimate knowledge of the queen’s ministers and the period’s political history guarantees the accuracy and thoroughness of this rip-roaring story.

The religious makeup of 16th-century England had bounced from Protestant to Catholic and back again with each succeeding offspring of Henry VIII. Her country’s future relied upon Elizabeth’s strength. The lack of a successor and England’s isolation and defenselessness produced obsessive vigilance on the part of Lord High Treasurer William Cecil (Baron Burghley) and Principal Secretary Francis Walsingham. As the author notes, the more obsessive the vigilance, the greater the danger perceived. That there was a real threat in the 1580s is without doubt. Philip II of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots, exiled Catholics and priests in France all worked unceasingly to usurp, overthrow or murder Elizabeth. Mary, first cousin to the queen, had the strongest claim to the succession. Her Catholic supporters in France plotted unceasingly during her two-decade imprisonment. The threat from Philip took some years to materialize, but England’s interference in the struggle of the Low Countries against Spanish rule pushed him to join the Pope’s Great Enterprise against Elizabeth. The third threat, posed by priests trained at the English seminary in France, was more insidious. Over the course of 40 years, Elizabeth’s hounds identified nearly 500 priests active in England; 116 of those met the gruesome fate of being hanged or drawn and quartered. Tracing the devious machinations of rebels and intelligence agents alike, Alford makes brilliant use of the intercepted letters, illegal publications and incendiary pamphlets found in the Elizabethan archives.

A great spy novel—except that it’s all true.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60819-009-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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