Good history accessibly and ably told.

WILD BILL

THE TRUE STORY OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER'S FIRST GUNFIGHTER

A vigorous yarn concerning the man who, by Clavin’s (Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West, 2017, etc.) account, set the template for the Wild West gunslinger.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876), not least why a man born James Butler Hickok called himself Bill. The “wild” part of the moniker probably dates to the Civil War, when Unionist saloon patrons threatened to harm their secessionist-favoring bartender. “Though far from sharing the man’s views,” writes the author, “Bill believed in fair fights,” and he backed the crowd down. As Clavin notes, just what Bill did during the war remains a matter of some history, but he may have served the Union while wearing a gray coat, working as a spy. Whatever the case, he was on the western frontier in time to stare down William Quantrill’s guerrillas, turn up at the battle called the “Gettysburg of the West,” and, soon after, to share friendships with Buffalo Bill Cody and George Armstrong Custer—and perhaps even with Mrs. Custer, who called him “a delight to look upon.” Mixed up with all that was the gunfighter business: Hickok was fast enough and accurate enough to deter a whole passel of bad guys, gaining notoriety when they didn’t back off, as when he had to square off with a sometime acquaintance who argued with him over a small debt and didn’t live to collect it. Clavin writes fluently and often entertainingly of a man shrouded in legend while being all too human. For example, Hickok may not have recognized the man who gunned him down in Deadwood, South Dakota, because even in his 30s, his eyes were going bad. The author also ably picks apart what is likely or actual from what is invented, including a whole tangle of tales involving a certain Calamity Jane and penny-dreadful stories that were circulating about him even while Hickok was still alive.

Good history accessibly and ably told.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17379-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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