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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Early Response to Upcoming "When the Bomb Hit Hollywood" Book

Just a short post here to announce my new book coming in early July, The Beginning or the End:  How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,  from The New Press.  There's a brief write-up below from the catalog that will have to do for now.   The very positive first review, from Publishers Weekly, just appeared, and Library Journal now adds:  "This intriguing, behind-the-scenes look at a disjointed creative partnership is sure to be of interest to readers of history and cinema."

And now from often-tough Kirkus: "Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell’s book a novelistic flair....Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale."

Here are the five "blurbs," from a leading authority on the bomb, Richard Rhodes, and best-selling authors Gary Krist, Nicholson Baker, Peter Biskind, and Alex Kershaw, and then the summary below that.  (You can pre-order at Amazon here at special price or at indie sites.)   I will also note in passing that I have also just finished writing and directing my first film, based on a previous book, Atomic Cover-Up.


“A fascinating, sharp-eyed study of Hiroshima’s cinematic aftershocks.  Mitchell expertly chronicles the gradual transformation of a gigantic, and still-radiating, moral catastrophe." --Nicholson Baker, author of Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, and Double Fold, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

"The Beginning or the End is an engrossing, wry, and always lively look behind the scenes of a historic Hollywood flop.  But it’s also much more than that: a deeply serious, meticulously researched account of how the movie industry—and the American public in general—embraced a comforting myth to justify one of the most controversial decisions in history. This is a first-rate piece of work by one of our most accomplished nonfiction storytellers.” --Gary Krist,  best-selling author of Empire of Sin and The Mirage Factory

 

"A story of dishy Hollywood doings but with atomic bombs and a screenplay by Ayn Rand—what more could a reader ask for?" -- Richard Rhodes,  The Making of the Atomic Bomb, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award

 

"From the nation's  top secret to the silver screen:  Mitchell tells an unforgettable tale about a forgotten film and the tug-of-war between scientists, the White House and the Pentagon over the Hollywood version of the bombing of Hiroshima.”—Peter Biskind, best-selling author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

"A fascinating and brilliantly researched account of how Hollywood and Washington grappled with how to portray and profit from the new nuclear age. Another great read and exposé from Mitchell." --Alex Kershaw, best-selling author of The Liberator and Avenue of Spies

 

"Mitchell shows how this desire to control the narrative around the atomic attacks fed into the U.S.’s continued insistence on its right to launch a nuclear first strike. While the film bombed at the box office, Mitchell’s rich account of its making and larger implications should draw both history buffs and those concerned with the continuing issues around nuclear weapons."
--Publishers Weekly


"This intriguing, behind-the-scenes look at a disjointed creative partnership is sure to be of interest to readers of history and cinema." --Library Journal

"Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell’s book a novelistic flair....Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale."--Kirkus Reviews

Soon after atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, MGM set out to make a movie studio chief Louis B. Mayer called “the most important story” he would ever film: a big budget dramatization of the Manhattan Project and the invention and use of the revolutionary new weapon.

Over at Paramount, Hal B. Wallis was ramping up his own film version. His screenwriter: the novelist Ayn Rand, who saw in physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer the model for a character she was sketching for Atlas Shrugged.

Greg Mitchell’s The Beginning or the End chronicles the first efforts of American media and culture to process the Atomic Age. A movie that began as a cautionary tale inspired by atomic scientists aiming to warn the world against a nuclear arms race would be drained of all impact due to revisions and retakes ordered by President Truman and the military—for reasons of propaganda, politics, and petty human vanity (this was Hollywood).  And all the while, the FBI was surveillng Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard and other scientists for "Communist" connections.

Mitchell has found his way into the lofty rooms, from Washington to California, where it happened, unearthing hundreds of letters and dozens of scripts that show how wise intentions were compromised in favor of defending the use of the bomb and the imperatives of postwar politics. As in his acclaimed Cold War true-life thriller The Tunnels, he exposes how our implacable American myth-making mechanisms distort our history.

"Greg Mitchell is the best kind of historian, a true storyteller."
   
Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author  of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

 "Greg Mitchell has been a leading chronicler for many years of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and American behavior toward them."
  Robert Jay Lifton, author of Death in Life (winner of the National Book Award).

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