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THE PIRATES LAFFITE

THE TREACHEROUS WORLD OF THE CORSAIRS OF THE GULF

Davis considers the Laffites to have been more entrepreneurs than pirates, ambitious but hapless, “men of temporal success...

Prolific historian Davis (Lone Star Rising, 2004, etc.), director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, serves up a highly engaging chronicle of the brothers Laffite, anarchist princes of the early republic.

Pierre moved from France to the Caribbean at the beginning of the French Revolution, perhaps motivated by sympathy to the royalist cause but also sure that there was no living to be made in the old country. He traded in whatever yielded a profit, and he acquired a sophisticated geographical knowledge of the Gulf Coast that would serve him well. A dozen years Pierre’s junior, brother Jean Laffite had apparently been out at sea while Pierre set up shop in French Louisiana, but when they reunited he easily turned to a new trade, transporting and selling slaves. Their headquarters of Barataria, near New Orleans, soon sprouted a village of huts and shacks, and, with a commission from the independent republic of Cartagena in what is now Colombia, the brothers kept a flotilla of privateers busy raiding Spanish shipping throughout the Gulf. Such acts didn’t bother the American administration overmuch until about the time the War of 1812 broke out, when Jean offered the governor the privateers’ services against the British if the government would stop harassing them. “This plan was brilliant in its way,” Davis writes, for “in effect the Laffites were offering nothing,” inasmuch as their small fleet couldn’t do much against the British. Andrew Jackson was receptive all the same, and the privateers fought valiantly at the Battle of New Orleans. The glory days were yet to come, for Jean soon went to work for the Spanish crown and laundered slaves in Texas for an ambitious Jim Bowie, while Pierre busied himself in similarly illicit enterprises. Pierre died in 1822, Jean the following year, “at precisely the right moments,” for an independent Mexico and republican South America yielded a Spanish Main at peace and “a world they would not have known.”

Davis considers the Laffites to have been more entrepreneurs than pirates, ambitious but hapless, “men of temporal success but lifetime failure.” A splendid telling of their endlessly interesting tale.

Pub Date: May 2, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-100403-X

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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