A passionately presented book that offers sparkling tangents for further study.



A history of the startling scientific innovations that rose to meet disconcerting troubles in revolutionary France.

Jones (Genetics/Univ. Coll. London; The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as Science, 2013, etc.) fashions an elegant, somewhat meandering, and never dull narrative about the rich contributions by Age of Enlightenment–era French scientists who were encouraged by the wobbly state and monarchy to come up with solutions to mankind’s many problems. These involved addressing famine, correct measurements (the metric system), modern maps, new crops, and the establishment of new observatories and academies. Many of these scientists—all male save for mathematician Sophie Germain and, later, chemist Marie Curie—were members of the Collège de France (which received a “spring clean” by Louis XV’s finance minister, the economist Jacques Turgot) or the Royal Academy of Sciences. They included well-educated aristocrats who were also civic-minded—e.g., the radical Jean-Paul Marat, who was trained in medicine and known for conducting studies of venereal infections. In Paris, the wild enthusiasm for the electrical experiments of adopted Frenchman Benjamin Franklin occurred “at a period when science had entered the public arena, and when there seemed to be almost no limit to what it could do.” In a loosely thematic approach, Jones delves into the world-changing experiments and research by these able and daring scientists, beginning with the harnessing of electricity and working through the revolution itself, which was a “celebration of reason over passion” (at least at first). The author notes that the revolutionary year of 1789 also saw the publication of seminal works by Antoine Lavoisier, botanist Antoine de Jussieu, and mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace. Jones also examines the processes of solving problems related to explosives, famine calories and heat retention, flight, relativity, evolution, and chaos in the universe.

A passionately presented book that offers sparkling tangents for further study.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-309-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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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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