Readers nostalgic for California’s yesteryear or who wonder about the history behind their road maps should find plenty to...



A book provides a history of Highway 99, which ran from Mexico to Oregon and subtly transformed California.

The first part of this work lays out the history and development of the road and the cities it passed through. In the early 1910s, California sought to build standardized highways of a higher quality than the dirt roads that early motorists had to deal with. A number of early routes eventually were merged into Highway 99, which connected the southern and northern parts of the state, an achievement Provost (Fresno Growing Up, 2015) considers “just as illustrious” as the famed Route 66. In clear prose, the author describes in much detail the early challenges that the road builders faced in traversing the varied terrain of California, from tortuous mountain passes to flood-threatened lowlands. He also gives loads of vibrant background about the people of the area, from the farmland laborers of the Depression to the entrepreneurs who popped up on the roadside. Provost’s grasp of local color comes through in his choice of anecdotes; he picks out vivid and intriguing events to discuss the societal changes that the highway brought, such as the rise and fall of motels and roadside diners. These scenes, chock full of captivating characters from the road’s history, lift the book out of the highway minutiae—when it was built, when and where it was bypassed, etc.—that Provost occasionally gets lost in and which don’t have quite the same verve. The second part gives a short entry on every city and town along the road, from Calexico to Yreka, and information on where to see the remnants of the celebrated highway’s route. (Travelers now use the more efficient Interstate 5.) While some accounts merely give the history of how the town was named, others delve deeply into some particularly unusual part of the city, from the underground gardens of Fresno to the renowned date milkshakes of Thermal. Photos by Provost and from various archives are helpfully presented throughout.

Readers nostalgic for California’s yesteryear or who wonder about the history behind their road maps should find plenty to love in this work.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61035-296-3

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Craven Street Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2017

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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.



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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