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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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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