'A GOVERNMENT OF OUR OWN'

THE BIRTH OF THE CONFEDERACY

An authoritative account from Civil War historian Davis (Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour, 1991) of the would-be Founding Fathers of the Confederacy. In February 1861, delegates from six states in the Deep South met in Montgomery, Ala., to form their own nation. Despite constant invocations of the spirit of 1776, their movement, in their own view, aimed at reform rather than revolution. Davis (no relation to the Confederate president) traces how the delegates hammered out a constitution that protected slavery, selected Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens as provisional president and vice president, and erected the jerry-built governmental apparatus that would turn their dreams of secession into reality. They were a varied lot, from ``fire-eaters'' who expected a swift, comparatively bloodless separation from the Union, to reluctant secessionists who correctly feared a slaughter. By May 1861, when the capital was moved to Richmond, Va., the seeds of the new government's destruction had already been planted. Davis disputes the often-suggested epitaph for the Confederacy, ``Died of States Rights,'' but his own account demonstrates that the correct label might better read, ``Died of States Rights and Swollen Egos.'' However idealistic the delegates might have been initially, by the time they moved to Richmond they were already beginning to regard Jefferson Davis with suspicion, arrogance, and frustrated ambition. Believing that ``the finest statesmen the South had to offer composed that Provisional Congress,'' William Davis is more charitable than the group deserves, and his narrative moves slowly. But he makes fine use of hundreds of often previously unpublished letters, diaries, and memoirs, and he deftly captures the capital's climate as officeholders, office seekers, lobbyists, businessmen, and transients joined the mosquitoes in infesting Montgomery. Despite its flaws, a useful history of a relatively undercovered aspect of the Civil War. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-907735-4

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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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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