Certain to please true-crime and legal-thriller aficionados.



A penetrating examination of the personal tragedy that befell a lawyer defending Jimmy Hoffa.

Tabac (Law/Cleveland State Univ.; The Insanity Defense and the Mad Murderess of Shaker Heights, 2018) unearths a previously untold story. Combining court transcripts, newspaper accounts, books about other figures, and interviews, he reconstructs the little-known life, dramatic career, and untimely death of Zeno Thomas Osborn Jr. In 1962, the Nashville lawyer won Baker v. Carr, the landmark Supreme Court case that established “one man, one vote.” In 1964, Osborn represented Hoffa, the Teamsters boss best remembered for disappearing in 1975 following decades of headlines involving organized crime and federal prosecutions. Tabac places Osborn in the context of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s protracted war with Hoffa and tracks down surviving veterans of its cloak-and-dagger skirmishes. He recounts his own successful 2009 effort to unseal grand jury testimony from the jury tampering trial that destroyed Osborn and reprints the damning transcript of a trickster’s secret recording. He paints Osborn not as a crooked lawyer corrupted by cash but a man who made the mistake of becoming Hoffa’s friend and loyalist. Tabac deftly calibrates his tone as the narrative shifts from Osborn’s Supreme Court victory to the seamy jury tampering episode, borrowing language from soft-boiled fiction: “Partin had clammed up before the grand jurors.” Short chapters maintain a lively pace, and the storytelling is authoritative and tantalizing. Given how vividly Tabac describes private meetings, conversations, and motives, other historians might wish to judge whether he has embellished or misinterpreted sources. His documentation won’t help much; the author provides a bibliography but no footnotes or endnotes. Some in-line references are available books, articles, or transcripts. Many are simply told “to the author.” Nevertheless, he displays balance and objectivity. As historical scholarship, this account may not quite please purists, but Tabac deserves credit for rescuing a forgotten slice of legal history and capturing its inherent drama and enduring lessons.

Certain to please true-crime and legal-thriller aficionados.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4671-3804-8

Page Count: 168

Publisher: The History Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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