Readers with an interest in the subject would do better to begin with David Roberts’ far superior Once They Moved Like the...



Second-tier, oddly old-fashioned military history by former naval officer Mort (The Hemingway Patrols, 2009).

In February 1861, a young Anglo boy disappeared from a ranch near the borders of New Mexico, Arizona and the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua, territory that was home to several Apache bands. Suspicion fell on the closest of them, led by the well-known fighter Cochise, who had long distinguished himself in battle against the Mexican army. An American officer named George Bascom questioned Cochise and, not believing what he heard, took several of Cochise’s family members hostage. Cochise escaped in a hail of gunfire. It turned out that Cochise’s band was not at fault after all, but the damage was done, and the Bascom Affair touched off the Apache Wars, which would last off and on for more than half a century. The Bascom Affair is a fixture in every history of those wars, and Mort doesn’t turn up much that is new. Indeed, his approach reads as if written half a century ago, before ethnohistorical research helped establish the Apache point of view on such matters; his bibliography lacks some central texts, and so it is that he is given to pat explanations—writing, for instance, that the Apaches raided because “they simply liked it,” and not, as Grenville Goodwin and other anthropologists have observed, because it was an enterprise as much cultural as economic and military in nature. Just so, he perpetuates tales about gruesome torture that have long been revealed to be canards—although, to be sure, ugly behavior took place on both sides. Mort’s history, overall, is of the Zane Grey school, readable enough but more yarn than true history.

Readers with an interest in the subject would do better to begin with David Roberts’ far superior Once They Moved Like the Wind (1993).

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1605984223

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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