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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pistols! Treason! Murder!: Review from Library Journal

The following is extracted from Library Journal, January 15 2010:

Strip away the whiz bangs here—comic-strip sequences, chapters in which the author and friends meet in cafés to talk over their obsession with the past, time-sequence photographs of a flintlock firing—and this is first-rate history, just of a different kind. The flashy stuff works here, with an effect similar to that of Michael Lesy's groundbreaking 1973 Wisconsin Death Trip, where Lesy's pictorial editing forced the reader to look at events a second time, catching nuances that might otherwise have been missed. Walker (research fellow, Univ. of Sydney) describes an incident of spying in 1622 Venice. A master spy, Gerolamo Vano, presents evidence that leads to a Venetian nobleman's hanging on charges of espionage. Five months later, Vano himself is executed for falsifying evidence, and the nobleman is absolved posthumously. But this book isn't just about Vano, about whose machinations the evidence is spotty. It's as much or more a reflection on how one approaches the historical record: how to exhume a coherent narrative from uneven, desultory, and usually self-serving reports. VERDICT This book will infuriate as many scholars as it excites, but it is original, well written, and good. It should intrigue anyone who likes reading history.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

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