A thoroughly researched academic study accessible to general readers.



Two sociology professors’ survey of New York con artists and how these reviled but crafty opportunists manage to make a living in the city’s informal economy.

New York City is full of haves and have-nots. But as Williams (New School for Social Research) and Milton (Queensborough Community Coll., CUNY) point out, this description is incomplete because it does not consider one invisible but ever present community: the con artists who take to have. In this book, the authors observe how people locked out of the “masterful” con game of the American dream create, and master, new games designed to temporarily beat the larger con. They base their account, which they call a “collage ethnography,” on direct interactions with nine New York con artists whom they interviewed and followed over the course of several years. What emerges from this collaboration is an intriguing study of the many different types of schemes—for example, dice and numbers games, slum-jewelry and designer knockoff cons, and tenant hustles—in which these men and women engage. Beyond describing how these cons work, Williams and Milton examine the con artist community and the enterprising individuals who inhabit it. They also argue that opportunism is an art that requires mastery of many complex rules. Indeed, con games are really a form of “street theater” that manages to “seduce” unsuspecting citizens into participating in an unfolding drama. What makes the book especially fascinating is the way the authors demonstrate how con games are not restricted by class—or any other social marker. Such behavior also takes place among “respectable” middle-class professionals such as law enforcement officials and, perhaps less surprisingly, wealthy New York business executives. Bold and illuminating, the book is a reminder that no matter how poor or rich people may be, greed—and therefore the capacity to cheat others for our own gain—“is embedded in our social DNA.”

A thoroughly researched academic study accessible to general readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-17082-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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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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