A stirring reconstruction of events, of much interest to military history buffs.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING

FROM THE SIEGE OF MALTA TO THE ALLIED VICTORY AT EL ALAMEIN

Following their collaboration on Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain (2000), Clayton and Craig study England’s military fortunes during the pivotal year 1942, drawing widely and wisely on the reminiscences of ordinary soldiers, sailors, and civilians.

Their account concentrates on the British campaign launched in late spring to destroy Erwin Rommel’s command in North Africa. Rommel’s Afrika Korps had been enjoying extraordinary success in the preceding months, as indeed had Axis armies everywhere: Hitler’s forces stood at the gates of Russia’s great cities, while Singapore and most of the islands of the Pacific had fallen to the Japanese. America’s armies had yet to enter the field in force; the English and their Commonwealth allies had had to bear the brunt of the fight alone. Yet, against the odds, they turned the tide of the war in North Africa by doggedly holding out at places like Tobruk and Malta, refusing to relinquish these thorn-in-the-side fortresses. Coupled with massive assaults on the German homeland—one British raid on Cologne resulted in “300 acres at the heart of a great modern city reduced to a pile of rubble”—and the steady destruction of the Italian and German Mediterranean surface fleets, the British command’s daring strategy in North Africa forced Rommel to stretch his lines of supply to the breaking point; midsummer found the German commander begging Hitler for reinforcements and materiel that never arrived. Even so, Rommel’s armies threatened to break through to Cairo as late as the fall, an eventuality for which some Egyptian shopkeepers prepared themselves, the authors note, by hanging out red-and-black Axis bunting that they would take down only with the great Allied victory in the epochal tank battle of October 23–November 4. “Before Alamein we never had a victory,” Winston Churchill observed. “After Alamein we never had a defeat.”

A stirring reconstruction of events, of much interest to military history buffs.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-2325-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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.

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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