The inherent drama of the events compensates for the sometimes lackluster storytelling.



A tale of natural disaster, bad judgment and heroism during World War II.

In December 1944, a typhoon overtook a U.S. naval fleet that, under the leadership of Admiral William Halsey, was sailing in the Philippine Sea. The catastrophe was legendary—indeed, some believe it to be the basis for Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Caine Mutiny. All told, three ships were destroyed, and almost 800 men died. Drawing on recently declassified documents, Drury (The Rescue Season, 2001, etc.) and Clavin (Dark Noon, not reviewed, etc.) recreate the terrifying days during which the crew battled the elements. But this is not just a tale of men against nature. It’s also a tale of men for, and against, other men: Lieutenant Commander Henry Lee Plage of the USS Tabberer flouted orders in a daring rescue effort. The most moving scenes come at the end of the book, as the survivors reckon with the fate of their many dead comrades. Sailors on the USS Knapp, having recovered a body so mutilated by sharks that it was unidentifiable, recited a service from the Book of Common Prayer, and committed the body back to the sea. Moments later, another body floated up from the depths—it was Lieutenant Lloyd Rust, and he, miraculously, was still alive. The authors’ prose is often vivid: The typhoon created not just waves, but “vertical sheet[s] of ocean,” slamming against the ships, and the sun that beat down on men struggling to stay afloat is “a red dahlia.” Drury and Clavin have managed to avoid the problems that so often plague books with two authors—jerky breaks in the narrative, chapters cast in radically different voices. Still, the book is marred by weak characterization—even the heroic Plage never becomes three-dimensional.

The inherent drama of the events compensates for the sometimes lackluster storytelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-87113-948-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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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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