For veterans and their kin, perhaps, though general readers would do better to turn to Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way (2001)...



An overlong, undercooked tale of hara-kiri and heroism on the high seas.

In the last days of WWII, the Japanese naval command targeted the US aircraft carrier Franklin for destruction at whatever cost, although the planners of that attack surely must have known that the attempt would not stem their defeat. On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber eluded American air cover and crashed through the carrier’s flight deck, setting the ship’s stores of fuel and ammunition afire. While swarms of kamikaze planes assembled to finish off the stricken carrier, the captain of the light cruiser Santa Fe—on which Denver-based writer Jackson’s father served—steered his ship alongside the badly listing Franklin, tied on lines, and began the perilous task of rescuing hundreds of surviving sailors while its firefighters joined those aboard the Franklin to extinguish the blaze. The Franklin survived, though some of its evacuees would be treated as pariahs for leaving the ship when no order to abandon it had been issued. Jackson covers the dramatic incident and its aftermath well, though he has a tendency to write in a tired war-correspondentese: “Everywhere he looked there were heroes. And maybe more importantly, everywhere he looked there were guys just doing what needed to be done.” “Still, there was nothing to do but roll with the punches and hit back.” “I’m writing the old lady today, ‘Drop them skivvies, honey, I’m coming home.’ ” Jackson devotes much space to portraits of the ordinary (very ordinary) joes who manned the ship—the farmboy from Missouri, the wisecracking big-city boy, the hot-dog pilot, “dark-haired and rakishly handsome, a cigarette dangling from his lips almost constantly.” These portraits never extend beyond the expected and add up to a second-tier Ambrosian celebration of heroism under fire—a bravery that is genuine and does not beg assertion after assertion.

For veterans and their kin, perhaps, though general readers would do better to turn to Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way (2001) for a satisfying ration of WWII naval combat.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1061-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet