SIERRA CROSSING

FIRST ROADS TO CALIFORNIA

An academic study of the quest by explorers and later entrepreneurs to find a way over California’s mountain wall. Geographer Howard discusses a critical development in the history of California, the building of the first roads across the Sierra Nevada, tall and snow-blocked mountains that, even at their easier passes, still required days and even weeks to traverse. (The Truckee Pass, where the Donner party met its doom and where Interstate 80 now cuts through the Sierra, was especially difficult, and as Howard notes, —the paralyzing effect of heavy snowfall remains a threat to trans-Sierra transportation even today.—) After surveying the geography of montane California, Howard looks into the careers of the 19th-century explorers who first established various routes over the Sierra, notably Jedediah Smith, Joseph Walker, and John Charles FrÇmont, and at the rush to build true roads after the US government opened competitive bidding for mail delivery (Wells Fargo eventually won) and Congress passed the Wagon Road Act of 1857, a precursor of the modern federal highway system. Howard offers many interesting asides, some of them buried in endnotes, about the intense rivalries between Golden State cities and individuals to profit from the road-building enterprise. He also notes that with the advent of transcontinental railroads many of the earliest road builders— efforts were undone, largely because the railroads had —the resources to blast and tunnel— their way over mountain grades that would have been impassible for horse-drawn wagons. Though well written, this book, born of the author’s doctoral dissertation, will appeal only to a specialized audience. Even so, it is a solid if modest contribution to 19th-century Western history. (22 b&w photos, 3 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-520-20670-3

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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