A cleareyed account of a criminal enterprise that is undeniably a threat to civil society wherever it turns up.




Trenchant history of the gang that Donald Trump has called as dangerous as al-Qaida.

MS-13, which takes its name from the enigmatic Spanish phrase “Mara Salvatrucha,” is now 40 years old, and it has members throughout the U.S. as well as El Salvador. Owing to a vicious civil war between a government backed by the Reagan administration and communist guerrillas, tens of thousands of Salvadorans fled to the United States, with a particularly strong presence in Los Angeles. Two refugee brothers founded MS-13 to protect their community from other gangs—and then, over time, discovered that they could gain power and wealth by controlling segments of the drug trade and other criminal enterprises. Now, journalist Dudley writes, MS-13 is a loosely organized gang that “had grown by coming at their enemies in waves, like a marabunta, or army of ants, as the street gangs were baptized so many years ago in El Salvador.” The gang is marked by several signatures, including heavy tattooing and a tendency to kill their victims with machetes, chopping them to bits. Like any gang, Dudley observes, MS-13 is both a product of its environment and a shaper of it, strengthening social bonds “via violence and predatory criminal acts.” Gang life is also far from romantic, as he reveals, marked by excessive drug and alcohol use, that constant violence, and, often, homelessness—landlords are reluctant to rent to gang members who treat their properties as “a crash-pad, a party-place, a meeting spot, a stash house, a torture chamber, a brothel or all of the above.” The gang is also dominant in places such as LA, New York, and even Washington while its members travel freely back and forth to El Salvador, bribing the authorities to look the other way.

A cleareyed account of a criminal enterprise that is undeniably a threat to civil society wherever it turns up.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-00554-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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