An illuminating tale of a pilot on the cutting edge.



An Air Force veteran tells an exciting tale of tracking terrorist leaders by remote piloted aircraft, the future of military aviation.

The Predator was McCurley’s craft of choice from 2003 through 2012, a drone (no longer so-called) once considered “an aviation backwater joke” and now regarded as the “spear in the war against terrorism.” Flying an RPA is much like flying an airplane, except that the controls might be located in a command center at Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti, while the actual aircraft might be operating in Yemen and tracking prime terrorist target Anwar al-Awlaki, as was the case for this pilot in September 2011. McCurley, aka Squirrel (his tactical call sign), learned how to fly the Predator in 2003, at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. Without the traditional feel of an aircraft in flight, and with the pilot unable to use his senses to monitor its performance, the Predator is more difficult to fly than a regular plane, and the pilot has to stick to systems, data, and controls. Eventually, McCurley’s mission was to track terrorist convoys in Afghanistan and Iraq via the Predator and launch a missile attack. His account moves chronologically as he grew more confident as a mission commander and was assigned some high-profile targets—e.g., Iraqi leader al-Awlaki (mission accomplished). As this was the Predator’s period of coming-out, McCurley provides a valuable record of both the RPA’s effectiveness as well as the eerie, detached sensation the pilot feels when watching “the face of your enemy…staring back at you in high definition.” The author ably chronicles the tedious, routine work involving “days drenched in blood,” and he gives a good sense of the evolution of the RPA since the 1990s and the intensive human element necessary to command it.

An illuminating tale of a pilot on the cutting edge.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0525954439

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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