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TERROR IN THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS

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

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

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 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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