A colorful, richly detailed overture to Lincoln’s odyssey.



On Feb. 11, 1861, three weeks before his inauguration, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train for Washington, D.C. This lively account describes that eventful journey.

“Lincoln’s safe delivery,” writes Widmer, “would become, over the next thirteen days, a powerful symbol for the survival of democracy in America. As he traveled his circuitous route, Lincoln carried the aspirations of millions on his shoulders. Around the country, they were waiting for him.” No one doubted the occasion’s historical significance, so the train overflowed with reporters, officials, friends, and fans. The author describes Lincoln’s wandering, 1,900-mile journey, with well-wishers lining the tracks and huge crowds whose members clamored to shake his hand and hear a speech. Not every speech was memorable, nor were the many encounters, mishaps, and demonstrations, so Widmer wisely cuts away to deliver histories of the cities and states along the route, their citizens’ reactions to the impending crisis (multiple states had already seceded from the Union), and the impressions of witnesses. Plenty of Southern sympathizers proclaimed murderous intentions, and newspapers published breathless reports of hidden bombs, efforts to sabotage the rails, and cabals of sharpshooters. Concerned railroad officials called on Alan Pinkerton, head of the famous detective agency, whose operatives swarmed over the route and reported numerous plots to harm Lincoln. Widmer is not certain if any competent assassins were at work, but Pinkerton and rail officials had no doubt. They convinced a reluctant Lincoln to depart from his schedule at the end of his trip and travel incognito through Maryland to Washington on an ordinary passenger train. This passed without incident, but news of the furtive journey produced an avalanche of bad publicity before greater events took over. While general readers may lose interest during the journey, Lincoln buffs will undoubtedly devour the book.

A colorful, richly detailed overture to Lincoln’s odyssey.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3943-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?