Thomas Powers is the author of Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb, among other books.
 (December 2016)


The Private Heisenberg and the Absent Bomb

Werner and Elisabeth Heisenberg, Göttingen, Germany, circa 1946

My Dear Li: Correspondence, 1937–1946

by Werner and Elisabeth Heisenberg, edited by Anna Maria Hirsch-Heisenberg and translated from the German by Irene Heisenberg.
When they were separated by Heisenberg’s scientific travels or the war itself, Elisabeth and Werner exchanged more than three hundred letters that survived the fighting. Both later wrote accounts of the war years, but their letters, filled with the worries and hopes of ordinary family life, offer a quieter, more intimate picture of the years when Heisenberg ran the program that was going nowhere. Husband and wife both knew that the German secret police were free to open and read their letters at will, and tried to avoid dangerous ground.

The Charms of George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer, right, with his captured West Point classmate Confederate Lieutenant James B. Washington and an escaped slave after the Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, Virginia, May 31–June 1, 1862

Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America

by T.J. Stiles.
The nineteenth-century cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer, who was a general at twenty-three and dead at thirty-six, has probably been the subject of more books than any other American, Lincoln excepted. All until now move swiftly through the brilliant feats of arms of the Civil War career that made Custer …

A Tale of Woe and Glory

Mató Topé: Battle with a Cheyenne Chief, 1833

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky

an exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, April 8–July 20, 2014; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, March 9–May 10, 2015
The horse is the first great fact in the lives of the Plains Indians during their glory years; the next is disease, especially smallpox, pneumonia, cholera, and measles, which decimated the Plains tribes in a wave of epidemics beginning pretty much at the moment Spanish explorers arrived looking for rumored cities of gold.

The American Hero

Former Navy SEAL and expert sniper Chris Kyle, Dallas, Texas, April 2012

American Sniper

a film directed by Clint Eastwood

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History

by Chris Kyle with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen
If the guys are tired of talking football at a bar near a military post where enlisted men from elite military units do their drinking on a Saturday night, you might get an argument going with a different sort of question, like what, exactly, was the greatest single rifle shot …


Girls and Indians

A frame from Garrett Price's White Boy, November 5, 1933

Garrett Price, who drew hundreds of cartoons and a hundred covers for The New Yorker, also created a long-forgotten comic strip called White Boy, now republished in its entirety. The hero was just that, a slender, nameless lad who left everything familiar when he was captured by Indians, given to a woman whose own son had been killed by whites, and adopted into the tribe.

The Book of Little Bighorn

The warring life of the Northern Plains tribes that resisted white invasion in the 1860s is the subject of A Lakota War Book from the Little Bighorn: The Pictographic “Autobiography of Half Moon.” The book is a collection of seventy-seven Lakota and Cheyenne drawings, accompanied by extensive analysis and commentary by the social anthropologist Castle McLaughlin. It will be published next year by Harvard’s Houghton Library, where the drawings were stored but little noticed for eighty years. What sets these drawings apart from others of their kind is the persuasive argument made by McLaughlin that most of the drawings, and the book as a whole, represent an Indian account of episodes during the conflict known as “Red Cloud’s War” (1866–1868), and that it may be possible to identify three of the artists.

‘In Such a Place, A Person Might Die in a Day’

Scenes from Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff

“Hell is full of bears,” says the dramatically hirsute trapper and explorer Stephen Meek in Kelly Reichardt’s recent film about emigrant travelers lost in the arid wastes of eastern Oregon in the summer of 1845. About a thousand waterless miles farther along—miles punctuated by Meek’s muttered complaint—the trapper remarks, “Hell is full of Indians.” But he’s not done yet. “Hell is full of mountains,” Meek notes, in a final report of what he has found in the hell called life that, we are invited to conclude, has included a lot of all three.