Command and Control -- Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, Penguin '13, $36, 632 pages, ASIN #1594202273. Index, bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
"How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction," author Eric Schlosser writes, "without being destroyed by them?" His new book is a sobering corrective to the notion that the nuclear age is history.
"Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years," according to the author, who wrote the prize-winning Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness.
Schlosser's focus is "the urgent effort by American scientists, policy makers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons cannot be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently." He also recounts stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.
Eric Schlosser's work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The Nation.
The Internal Enemy -- Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, The Internal Enemy by Alan Taylor, Norton '13, $35, 605 pages, ASIN #0393073718. Index, bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Acclaimed historian Alan Taylor sets his gripping tale in early 19th century Virginia, where market-minded capitalists were challenging the old colonial elite, and the landed gentry fought to preserve its privilege against a rising tide of enfranchised commoners. But underlying it all was the issue of slavery, a half-century before the Civil War supposedly set it to rest.
"White Virginians came to see the slaves in their homes and neighborhoods as a dangerous powder keg: a conquered race that could become a vengeful army at any moment," Taylor writes, recounting how the War of 1812 caused relations between America and Britain to reach the boiling point.
"For Virginian slaves it was an escape route: British law held that any person on British soil was necessarily a free citizen, and British commanders considered British vessels British soil. What followed amounted to the single greatest slave revolt in U.S. history....While America and Britain fought, freedmen dared the fatal wrath of their former masters to rescue family, lovers, and friends, and avenge themselves against the tyranny of slavery."
University of Virginia historian Alan Taylor is the recipient of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes for his histories of early America.
Gabrielle d'Annunzio -- Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Knopf '13, first U.S. edition. $35, 589 pages, ASIN #0307263932. Index, select bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the dust jacket:
"Daring night flight missions, dropping bombs and propaganda out of early airplanes. Bloodthirsty orations, inciting a people to war. Trysts with countless women, including the great actress Eleonora Duse. Writing books and plays that moved thousands of young men to begin to dress, smoke, speak, and walk like fictional characters. The creation of a Dionysian paradise, with pleasure and literature at its heart. Here is Lucy Hughes-Hallett's volatile and fascinating life of Gabriele d'Annunzio, the poet, bon vivant, and virulant nationalist who prefigured Mussolini and the rise of Italian fascism.
"Gabriele d'Annunzio was Italy's premier poet at a time when poetry mattered enough to trigger riots. A brilliant self-publicist in the first age of mass media, he used his fame to sell his work, seduce women, and promote his extreme nationalism. In 1915, d'Annunzio's incendiary oratory helped drive Italy to enter the First World War, in which he achieved heroic status as an aviator.
"At once an aesthete and a militarist, d'Annunzio wrote with equal enthusiasm about Fortuny gowns and torpedoes, and enjoyed making love on beds strewn with rose petals as much as risking death as an aviator."
Cultural historian and critic Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of Heroes: A History of Hero Worship and Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams, and Distortions. She was TV critic for the Evening Standard for five years. She lives in London.