A treat for true-crime fans and bibliophiles alike.




Vivid account of an organized gang that victimized public and university libraries in the late 1920s and early ’30s.

Rare-book dealers on Manhattan’s famed Book Row along lower Fourth Avenue almost inevitably were offered material of questionable provenance, writes McDade (The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman, 2006), and they didn’t always turn it down. But three booksellers—Charles Romm, Ben Harris and Harry Gold—actually recruited freelance thieves into their own crooked network. The Romm Gang became so adept at stealing rare volumes and scrubbing off the marks that identified their institutional owners that by 1930, it was sitting on a cache of thousands of books that had to be carefully moved into the market so as not to attract attention. The gang finally overstepped on January 10, 1931, when it hit the Reserve Book Room of the New York Public Library and boosted first editions of The Scarlet LetterMoby-Dick and an exceedingly rare early collection by Edgar Allan Poe, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. NYPL special investigator G. William Bergquist tracked the Poe to Gold but wasn’t able to prove the bookseller had it until he got a lucky break. In Boston, police nabbed two of its key suppliers, who gave Bergquist enough information to persuade New York’s finest to raid Gold, Romm and Harris. The latter two were caught red-handed with stolen books and got jail sentences, but Gold apparently was tipped off in time to hide any incriminating evidence. It took a sting operation organized by Bergquist to retrieve the Poe volume and nail the slipperiest and most brazen member of the Romm Gang. McDade, a rare-books curator at the University of Illinois College of Law, does a nice job of capturing the colorful personalities involved, as well as the morally ambiguous nature of the rare-book trade.

A treat for true-crime fans and bibliophiles alike.

Pub Date: June 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-992266-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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

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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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