The early years of American involvement in Vietnam unfold in this well-written study of the war correspondents who made it their beat. ``In the beginning,'' Prochnau (a former Washington Post correspondent and author of the novel Trinity's Child, 1983) writes with no trace of irony, ``it was such a nice little war,'' a war of spies, intrigues, and exoticism that brought out the Hemingway in a small army of reporters eager to make their names in far-off Vietnam. That nice little war quickly dissolved as Americans, soldiers and correspondents alike, began to learn the realities of the place. The Vietnamese government was hostile to American media inquiries, and reporters who came face to face with the Saigon regime were about as well liked as the Viet Cong. At one point in 1963, in fact, as Prochnau vividly relates, several members of the American press corps had to seek asylum at the American ambassador's residence lest they be assassinated by President Diem's agents. The reporters were a varied lot. They included Richard Tregaskis, author of the WW II classic Guadalcanal Diary, who left with the sad knowledge that Vietnam was a shameful rejoinder to his generation's war; Pamela Sanders, a freelance writer who put herself into ``every wild combat ride the little war had to offer''; Neil Sheehan, whose 1988 book A Bright Shining Lie was born in the chaos of Saigon in 1963; Malcolm Browne, whose famous photograph of a Buddhist monk in flames first gave the world an inkling that something was amiss in Vietnam; and, most famously, David Halberstam, who began reporting for the New York Times full of JFK's conviction that this was a just, even chivalric enterprise and became disillusioned by the lies and delusions the American government fomented. Prochnau's anecdote-rich account of the work of these brave men and women makes for fascinating reading. (8 pages b&w photos) (First serial to Vanity Fair; film rights to HBO)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1995

ISBN: 0-8129-2633-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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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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