First-rate reporting and a seminar in how to employ context in investigative and historical journalism.

TERROR IN THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS

MURDER, BASEBALL, AND THE SECRET SOCIETY THAT SHOCKED DEPRESSION-ERA DETROIT

A veteran journalist uses a variety of lenses to illuminate the dark story of the Black Legion, an association of murderous (white) domestic terrorists who briefly thrived in the upper Midwest.

Stanton (Journalism/Univ. of Detroit; Ty and the Babe: Baseball’s Fiercest Rivals, 2007) unfolds the history of the Legion gradually, always keeping it in the social, cultural, and economic context of the area where it was born and grew: the territory around western Lake Erie. Although the author tells us about the horrors perpetrated by the Legion (whippings, intimidations, murders), he follows other stories closely: the rise of boxer Joe Louis and the phenomenal year of 1935 for Detroit’s professional athletic teams—the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings all won championships. Stanton gives the Tigers the most attention, especially their player-manager, catcher Mickey Cochrane, a ferocious competitor who eventually crumbled into a nervous breakdown. Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish baseball star, also is often front and center. And there are cameos for a couple of future U.S. presidents (football star Gerald Ford, courted by the Lions, and Ronald Reagan, a broadcaster at the time). It’s evident throughout that the author assiduously researched his project; he seems to have read every newspaper and magazine account of the events and to have walked the blood-soaked ground (he ends with a visit to a relevant cemetery). Stanton is also quite clear about the corrosive political and law enforcement corruption that enabled the Black Legion to commit their atrocities without much blowback. “Numerous city figures and their followers belonged,” he writes, “including a councilman, police officers, and fire officials. Their biases spread along a spiteful scale from serious…to silly.” In 1936, however, a group of diligent cops began investigating and arresting, and the whole house of cards toppled very quickly—though, as Stanton points out, many murders remain unsolved and crime scenes uninvestigated.

First-rate reporting and a seminar in how to employ context in investigative and historical journalism.

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4930-1570-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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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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