A gripping story for readers in search of either drama or historical edification.

SHOT DOWN

THE TRUE STORY OF PILOT HOWARD SNYDER AND THE CREW OF THE B-17 SUSAN RUTH

An account of one pilot’s experience in World War II that’s part biography and part world history.

Debut author Snyder became an amateur historian following his retirement, inspired by his father Howard’s participation in World War II as the captain and pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Partly based on Howard Snyder’s diaries, this book also includes interviews with his crewmates, weaving a cohesive quilt of perspectives. The story begins with and centers on Howard’s life, starting with his upbringing in Nebraska, and taking readers on a tour of his marriage to Ruth, his enlistment, his time in pilot school, and then a series of dangerous combat missions over German-occupied Europe. However, the book is just as much about the war itself, and its grand historical moment in time, as it is about Howard’s life. The author discusses the horror and consequences of Pearl Harbor, the devastation and tactical importance of D-day, and the Casablanca Conference, for example; he also describes the lives of the soldiers themselves, such as how popular they were with English women and how they used recreation to distract themselves from the danger at hand: “Regardless, most men were able to keep a relatively detached attitude, centered on self-survival and the common belief that it only happened to someone else.” Even the dramatic culmination of the book, when Howard’s plane is shot down over Belgium, is equally concerned with depicting Belgium as it is Howard’s plight. This is a stark, welcome contrast to the current fashion among literary renderings of war, which prefer to focus solipsistically on characters’ interior lives. More than a third of the book is devoted to Howard’s attempt to evade German forces after being shot down, when he was dependent on the good graces of Belgium resistance forces. The author does an impressive job letting the tale speak for itself, giving center stage to the words of the soldiers and eschewing unnecessary dramatic embellishment. Although it breaks no new historical ground, Snyder’s contribution is an excellent one that honors both the personal and global effects of war.

A gripping story for readers in search of either drama or historical edification.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9860760-0-8

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Sea Breeze Publishing LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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