Overly sentimental writing may test some readers, but the authors deliver a great war story.

LUCKY 666

THE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

A breathless history of World War II heroism.

After conquering Guadalcanal in early 1943, American military leaders planned to invade Bougainville, several hundred miles north. Little was known about its defenses, however, so the air force required a reconnaissance mission. One crew volunteered, flying an unescorted 600-mile mission from the New Guinea base in “Old 666,” a shabby B-17 bomber that returned, crippled, with precious film but also dead and wounded soldiers. Journalists and longtime co-authors Drury and Clavin (The Heart of Everything that Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend, 2013, etc.) tell a fascinating story somewhat diminished by fictionalized prose full of invented dialogue and insight into the characters’ thoughts. The mission doesn’t begin until more than 200 pages into the narrative, but most readers will not complain, as they encounter a biography of an interesting lead character: talented pilot Jay Zeamer, a brilliant nonconformist who yearned to fly the new, high-tech B-17 but whose superiors didn’t trust him. Bored by the minimal duties of a co-pilot, he often slept during missions. Frustrated with the lack of action, he and a like-minded coterie found a junkyard B-17 and spent their spare time returning it to flying condition, adding multiple machine guns to its complement. It flew several missions before photographing Bougainville while Japanese fighters attacked it for over an hour. “The final flight of Old 666 with Capt. Jay Zeamer at the helm…remains the longest continuous dogfight in the annals of the United States Air Force,” write the authors. Though crewmates thought Zeamer was dead after they landed, he and another crew member received the Medal of Honor and the remainder, the Distinguished Service Cross, making them the war’s most decorated aircrew.

Overly sentimental writing may test some readers, but the authors deliver a great war story.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7485-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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