Substance trumps style in a book that will appeal to military history buffs and veterans.



Engaging account of an important, sometimes overlooked battle of the Korean War.

Drury and Clavin (Halsey’s Typhoon, 2007, etc.) have mined archival material and conducted extensive interviews with veterans who participated in the Battle of Fox Hill, during which a Marine rifle company held Chinese troops at bay for five days. Facing enemies who were better equipped in temperatures reaching 30 degrees below zero, the Marines fought south through the Toktong Pass in North Korea’s Nangnim Mountains. The company’s leader, Capt. William E. Barber, was shot and severely wounded in the leg; refusing to be evacuated, he commanded his troops from a stretcher and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. The authors are thorough, but they don’t overwhelm readers with minutia in this riveting narrative, which combines drama, military strategy and human interest. They provide a palpable sense of place by including interesting background material, such as accounts by missionaries who explored the terrain in the 1600s. The book’s best sections, however, paint vivid verbal pictures of the fighting: “A concussion grenade exploded in the slit trench and kicked [Pfc. Harrison] Pomers into the wall. Another bounced off his helmet and exploded just outside the trench, nearly knocking him out. He could move nothing but his left arm. He wiped his head, saw the blood on his left hand and, frantically reached for his helmet.” This approach offers a fine example of historiography examining war at the micro level. Those looking for a big-picture treatment of the war should consult David Halberstam’s masterful and elegantly written The Coldest Winter (2007). Drury and Clavin’s prose, by contrast, is rather pedestrian, but those who persevere will find the effort worthwhile.

Substance trumps style in a book that will appeal to military history buffs and veterans.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-87113-993-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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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