Armchair travelers looking for transport into difficult places will find this an engaging companion.

ESCALANTE'S DREAM

ON THE TRAIL OF THE SPANISH DISCOVERY OF THE SOUTHWEST

Journalist, mountaineer, and popular historian Roberts (Limits of the Known, 2018, etc.) ventures deep into the rugged country of the Colorado Plateau in this tale of its earliest European explorers.

It was a flash of inspiration on the part of a California-based prelate that sent Francisco Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante—in Roberts’ shorthand, “D-E”—riding from Santa Fe westward in late July 1776: It stood to reason that by doing so, they would end up at Monterey Bay. Things weren’t quite so clear-cut; as Roberts recounts, they went without much preparation and with little idea of what awaited them, and, he adds, “To plunge into wilderness virtually unarmed and untrained for war would have seemed suicidal to most Spanish officials in New Mexico.” D-E bumbled about, making contact with Native peoples unknown to the Spanish administrators but eventually learning that impediments such as the great deserts and canyons of the Colorado Plateau country ruled out an easy route connecting Spain’s colonial provinces. While traveling their route, Roberts, ill with a recurring but for now manageable cancer and all the more intrepid for it, pays homage to his own partner of many years while recounting some of the more modern dangers that await in the form of camo-clad hunters and survivalists. Anthropologically inclined readers will note that some of Roberts’ book learning is well out of date, with ethnic designations such as Papago and Anasazi long since supplanted; and though he critiques William Least Heat-Moon’s travel writing in passing, there are more than a few of the same genre conventions at work here. Readers looking for a comprehensive account of the expedition will find too much Roberts in it, and readers eager to read Roberts’ travelogue will find the Spanish colonial history laid on too thickly. Readers with a sense for both history and a living narrator, though, will find it just right, and they’ll be glad that Roberts has lived to tell the tale.

Armchair travelers looking for transport into difficult places will find this an engaging companion.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65206-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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