Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer.

THE GREAT INFLUENZA

THE EPIC STORY OF THE DEADLIEST PLAGUE IN HISTORY

A keen recounting of the 1918–20 pandemic.

This deadly global flu outbreak has gotten hazy in the public memory, and its origins and character were unclear from the beginning, writes popular historian Barry (Rising Tide, 1997, etc.). But influenza tore apart the world’s social fabric for two long years, and it would be a mistake to forget its lessons. (It also tore apart the American medical establishment—but that was for the good.) With the same terrorizing flair of Richard Preston’s Hot Zone, the author follows the disease in the way he might shadow a mugger, presenting us with the vivid aftereffects as if from Weegee’s camera: “Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.” But Barry is not interested simply in hugely disturbing numbers. He charts how the pandemic brought a measure of scientific maturity to the medical world and profiles such important personalities as Paul Lewis and William Henry Welch, institutions like Johns Hopkins, the Rockefeller Institute, and the Red Cross. He covers with an easy touch the evolution in our understanding of viral disease and the strides that have been made to counter its effects, such as vaccines. He watches the flu spread until there aren’t enough coffins to house the bodies, and he watches as the military fails to alert the general public because the brass feared it would hurt wartime morale. Influenza appears to have spread like a prairie fire from a military base in Kansas throughout the world, thanks to WWI troop deployment and the disease’s highly contagious nature. There was nowhere to hide, Barry chillingly explains: “It now seemed as if there had never been life before the epidemic. The disease informed every action of every person.” Emerging viruses, including new strains of flu, will likely visit us again.

Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-89473-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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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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