Sunday, October 30, 2011

BOOKS- Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam

Here's a first look at a great new book by Cold War historian Jim Hershberg on the Vietnam War, from Publishers Weekly.  Check it out:  

Operation Marigold is typically treated as little more than a footnote to the American war in Vietnam, but cold war historian Jim Hershberg, of George Washington University, unalterably changes that view. 

President Lyndon Johnson, who scuttled
1966 peace talks by turning loose the bombers.
This book delves into every aspect of Operation Marigold, a failed secret mission led by Polish diplomat Janusz Lewandowski, to set up peace negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam in the last weeks of 1966. The conventional wisdom was that the presumptive talks had little chance of success, since both sides believed they could prevail militarily and had no reason to talk, which is what President Johnson claimed to his dying day. 

Based on his reading of newly released documents and primary sources—including his own interviews with Lewandowski—Hershberg shows that Johnson’s decision to resume bombing Hanoi after a five-month pause caused the collapse of the talks before
they began. 

Hershberg also convincingly shows that the Poles (along with Italian diplomats) had authorization from the Vietnamese Communists to approach the Americans to start peace talks—something Johnson and his supporters argued was not the case. 

This is a well-written, in-depth look at the facts of a controversial and convoluted peace effort that could have significantly altered the course of the Vietnam War. Maps, photos.   --  Publisher’s Weekly, October 10, 2011.  

Jim Hershberg if also the author of James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

ON HISTORY: The phenomenon of Drunk History

How do you get 1.5 million people to sit through a six minute film on the testy relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass during the Civil War and how it shaped the elimination of slavery? Or get another 1.3 million to watch another six minute film on Nicola Tesla and his early experiments in electricity? Or get another 1.3 million to watch a five minute video about Benjamin Franklin?

Here’s an idea: How about getting the film’s narrator to first swallow down an entire bottle of brandy, or a bottle and a half of wine, and then stagger through the story in semi-coherent rants, occasionally collapsing on a sofa or babbling to themselves, while celebrity actors like Will Farrell and John C. Reilly play the key title roles? This, basically, is the concept behind Drunk History,  a wildly popular production of the Funny or Die web site.

Here’s a sample above. Try it out, or visit their web site for more.

It’s always good to find new, interesting ways to tell history, ways that get people to listen and make them passionate about it.

Here’s to a clever idea. I need a drink.

All things J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s, after having
led the FBI for over 40 years.
 This month, we give you all things J. Edgar Hoover: photos, movie links, books excerpts, cartoons, and the rest.  Check this page for the latest, below:

      -- Own Clyde Tolson's actual apartment !  Yes, this is FOR REAL !!

       -- Hoover: Andrew Simpson on J. Edgar as a student at George Washington University

      -- Hoover: A journalist's view -- Charles Elliott on searching J. Edgar''s trash.

      -- Hoover: The view of an FBI veteran;

      -- Still more snapshots of J. Edgar, including in the White House, 1930s-1970.

      -- More photos of J. Edgar hoover in the 1930s.

      -- J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson -- the actual photos

      -- A few cartoons of J. Edgar Hoover.

        -- "The Real J. Edgar Hoover," interview with NPR's "On Point," 11/9/2011.

        -- "Five Myths about J. Edgar Hoover," Washington Post, 11/9/2011.

       -- Washington Post web conversation on Hoover "5 Myths" article.   

       --SPECIAL FEATURE: a free peek at Young J. Edgar, the opening chapter in its entirely.

       -- My favorite photo of J. Edgar Hoover 

       -- SNEAK PREVIEW: New edition of YOUNG J. EDGAR now available on

       -- MOVIES: Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover -- Looking good so far.

DiCaprio as J. Edgar, from the new movie.

"Mr. Black said he had been interested in Hoover ever since his brother gave him a copy of a book called 'Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties.'” 
-- Interview with Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter for the firm "J. Edgar,"  WSJ "Speakeasy," 11/4/2011.

Hoover in 1924, from the new
edition of Young J. Edgar.

Monday, October 17, 2011

SNEAK PREVIEW: New edition of YOUNG J. EDGAR now available on

I am especially proud to announce that the very first book to be published by Viral History Press LLC, a new edition of Young J. Edgar, is now available in paperback on -- and at a discounted price !!   

If you haven't read it, please check it out.  We wanted particularly to make it available both on time for Halloween (there is no spookier Fed than Hoover) and certainly before the new Clint Eastwood-directed blockboster movie J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, opens in theaters November 9.  

If you insist on an eBook (Kindle, Nook, or Apple), please be patient.  These will be available soon.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for book excerpts and thoughts on Hoover and the movie.  Meanwhile, here's the link to Young J. Edgar on   

Also found at Barnes & Noble; here's some coupons.


From the back cover: 

        On June 2, 1919, bombs exploded simultaneously in nine American cities, including one that destroyed the 
        home of the Attorney General of the United States, A. Mitchell Palmer.  In the aftermath of World War I, America 
        faced a new enemy — radical communism.  Palmer vowed a crackdown.

        To lead it, he chose his youngest assistant, twenty-four year-old J. Edgar Hoover.  Under Palmer’s wing, Hoover 
        helped execute a series of brutal nationwide raids, bursting into homes without warning, arresting over 10,000 
        Americans and assembling secret files on hundreds of thousands of suspects and political enemies.  Hoover 
        survived to emerge as the most controversial American law enforcement figure of the Twentieth Century, a 
        person uniquely praised, feared, and condemned.

        Young J. Edgar brings to life Palmer’s raids and Hoover ’s coming of age.  It reaches the heart of our current 
        debate on personal freedom in a time of war and fear.