Distinguished historian Davis ably probes the lives of three legendary figures, finding much to illuminate the nature of frontier life in early America. Davis (The Cause Lost, 1996, etc.) notes that all three were outsize characters. Crockett, schooled in the wilderness as a hunter and trailblazer, served as a soldier under “Andy” Jackson in the Creek War, and was a charming, restless, ambitious figure, literate, a great storyteller and wit, and a nationally prominent politician who saw himself as a champion of the poor. He actively collaborated in the creation of a colorful and somewhat ribald public persona, doing nothing to discourage the rowdy and outrageous tales attached to his name. Jim Bowie was a much darker figure, having been a shady land speculator and a smuggler of slaves. He fled to Texas to escape creditors and forge some new career for himself. While a man of distinctly mixed morals, Bowie was also a brave man in combat, a natural leader, and something of a frontier legend in his own right. And as the movement for Texan independence grew, Bowie became one of its most prominent supporters. Travis was an educated attorney and militia officer whose life had been haunted by failure: addicted to gambling, he foundered as a newspaper publisher and fled to Texas to escape debt. Davis finds him bright, immature, and ambitious, an irresponsible figure who was also undeniably brave in combat. Davis deftly traces their paths to the Alamo, using his exploration of their varied characters to illuminate much about the harsh realities of life on the American frontier and offering along the way a vivid description of the siege of the Alamo and the bloody creation of an independent Texas. A splendid narrative history, perceptive, authoritative, and moving. (b&w photos, map, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-017334-3

Page Count: 816

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



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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