A fast-paced account of a little-known POW experience.

LIGHTNING DOWN

A WORLD WAR II STORY OF SURVIVAL

The journalist and bestselling popular historian returns with the story of an American soldier who survived Nazi terror.

Generally, Allied POWs in Germany fared better than those in Japan—but not the group that included fighter pilot Joe Moser, Clavin’s subject for this scrupulous, squirm-inducing account. The author narrates from Moser’s point of view, and his sources include Moser’s 2009 memoir. Raised on a farm and fascinated by flying, Moser enlisted in May 1942, underwent the 21 months of training required for the P-38 fighter jet, and flew his first mission in April 1944. Moving back and forth between the big picture and Moser’s 44 missions, Clavin delivers a workmanlike account of the war that ends in August, when Moser’s plane was shot down over France and he was captured. It’s significant that he was taken to Fresnes prison near Paris, where Allied airmen were held, instead of being sent to POW camps. After liberation, in the scramble to evacuate Germany’s high command, a group of soldiers were labeled “terror bombers.” They were crammed into boxcars and shipped to Buchenwald, Germany’s largest concentration camp; by fall, they were starved and disease-ridden. However, when he learned about their plight, a Luftwaffe officer, offended at this illegal treatment of fellow flyers, arranged their transfer to a POW camp. Readers relieved that their ordeal was over will be shocked by what followed in January. With the Red Army approaching, authorities evacuated the camp, forcing prisoners to walk across Germany in a freezing winter with only the food they carried with them. More died than at Buchenwald before arriving at another camp far worse than the one they had left. With Nazi Germany on its last legs, they expected a short stay, but two months passed before liberation. Readers can then enjoy Clavin’s traditional concluding description of the remaining years of the lives of Moser and other major figures.

A fast-paced account of a little-known POW experience.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-15126-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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