A thoroughly impressive, eminently readable work of revisionist history.

In this excellent biography of the famed bandit, journalist/historian Stiles reveals his subject as less a Robin Hood than an Osama bin Laden for his time.

The son of a luckless itinerant preacher who died broke in the gold fields of California, James (1847–82) came of age among hardscrabble Missourians who shared “a willingness to resort to violence . . . to resolve private disputes or keep public order.” When the border war flared up between slaveholders and pro-Union sympathizers along the Missouri River, James became a murderous member of one of the small guerrilla cells “that fought without central direction or official Confederate sanction” and were not shy about killing their supposed secessionist allies when it suited them, to say nothing of dismembering enemy corpses for pleasure. Though liberal in his range of targets, he was not apolitical, and long after war’s end, he took pains to terrorize Unionists and other enemies of the Confederacy; Stiles suggests that he even chose to stage his fateful raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota, because the abolitionist hero Adelbert Ames owned a controlling interest in it. James had a powerful ally and publicist in newspaper editor John Newman, an unapologetic champion of the Lost Cause who glamorized him as a friend and protector of the common man in the face of greedy carpetbaggers. On the contrary, Stiles insists, Jesse James was a terrorist. The author matches a real flair for the biographer’s art with an appreciation for the historical complexities of the time, especially for the ironies of the post-Reconstruction era, when much of the nation repudiated the radical goals of abolitionism, “sandpapered away by the economic depression and Democratic intransigence,” and white supremacy was restored, making the world safe for the likes of Jesse James and his carefully constructed myth.

A thoroughly impressive, eminently readable work of revisionist history.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-40583-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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