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Last call at the Hotel Imperial : the reporters who took on a world at war
2022
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Library Journal Review
In the years between the two World Wars, a previously isolationist United States came to be interested and involved in foreign affairs. During the interwar era--driven in no small part by a group of American foreign correspondents for large-circulation newspapers and magazines--the concerns, perspectives, and opinions of politicians and average citizens were influenced and broadened in ways never seen before, argues historian Cohen (Northwestern Univ.; The War Come Home). Although Dorothy Thompson, Jimmy Sheehan, John Gunther, and H.R. Knickerbocker are now unfamiliar names to most, in their day they were at the center of a turbulent period in the '20s and '30s that saw the end of empires and the rise of dictatorial strongmen around the world, many of whom they interviewed. In her engrossing account of this era and the people who did more than simply report facts, Cohen successfully interweaves international events with personal histories, creating a narrative that is well-crafted and comprehensively researched. Based on the voluminous published works of Gunther, Knickerbocker, Sheehan, and Thompson--as well as their letters, notes, diaries, and journals and those of their families, friends, and colleagues--the resulting history is both unique and memorable. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers who enjoy biographies, modern history, and politics.--Linda Frederiksen
Publishers Weekly Review
Northwestern University historian Cohen (Family Secrets) delivers an evocative portrait of a tight-knit coterie of American journalists who reported from the world's hot spots from the 1920s through the 1940s. Stationed in European capitals, with forays to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent "Jimmy" Sheean, Dorothy Thompson, John Gunther, and his wife, Frances, covered the fall of empires, the spread of communism, and the rise of fascism. Influenced by Freudianism and anti-colonialist struggles, they fashioned "a new kind of journalism, both more subjective and more intimate," Cohen writes, and stimulated a growing American interest in foreign affairs. Drawing on extensive archival material, Cohen vividly describes the privation Knickerbocker saw in Russia under Stalin's Five-Year Plan; Thompson's 1931 sit-down with Hitler, whom she called "the very prototype of the Little Man"; Sheean's marveling at the "dogged defiance" of ordinary Spaniards during the Spanish Civil War; and the Gunthers' witnessing of the 1934 July Putsch in Austria. Interwoven with these and other historical events are immersive accounts of the correspondents' extramarital affairs, divorces, bereavements, and literary endeavors. Striking a masterful balance between the personal and the political, this ambitious and eloquent account brings a group of remarkable people--and their tumultuous era--to vivid life. Agent: Kathy Robbins, the Robbins Agency. (Mar.)
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