In the few days since publication of THE BEGINNING OR THE END: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, at least 15 outlets have posted full excerpts and now reviews are arriving. The Wall St. Journal and Philadelphia Inquirer hailed the book, as did Charles P. Pierce at Esquire. Vanity Fair yesterday picked it as one of the "21 Best Books of 2020." I was just featured in half-hour program at C-Span which aired eleven times.
You can order from Amazon or an indie site. The book, of course, has the same title as the 1947 MGM drama, which President Truman and the military sabotaged so it would align with their pro-bomb narrative. Nicholson Baker: "Mitchell expertly chronicles the gradual transformation of a gigantic, and still radiating, moral catastrophe."
Here are most of the recent excerpts in one place.....
Two major pieces at Mother Jones. One reveals how Truman and the White House killed the key scene in the movie and ordered a re-take--and then got the actor playing Truman fired. The latest just posted reveals how Truman and his allies plotted to undermine John Hersey's famous "Hiroshima" article--and succeeded.
The Daily Beast with four: first to arrive with a lengthy and wild exploration of a rival film script for Paramount written by....Ayn Rand. Then they posted my piece on how the legendary editor of The New Yorker tried to get Truman to read the historic John Hersey piece two months after it appeared (the pay wall will end on Monday). Now just out with how the lies on the atomic bombings started on the first day, and then the suppression started. Finally: the tragedy of Nagasaki, a possible war crime but "the forgotten atomic city."
Newsweek with two: on the first atomic test at Trinity, the cover up of radiation hazards--and the joking treatment in the MGM movie at the center of my story. And now a new one raising questions about whether Truman had any regrets.
Lit Hub with my detailed exploration of how John Hersey came to write his "Hiroshima" article for the New Yorker and how it was received, with wild praise and some criticism. This came just as the MGM film was gaining scrutiny, and then orders for revisions, from Truman and the White House.
The venerable and influential Washington Monthly with how Truman's involvement in the movie started with a turning point meeting at the White House.
American History on how MGM needed to get signed contracts from Einstein, Oppenheimer and other leading scientists to be portrayed, and why they mocked the movie--but ultimately caved to pressure--even as the FBI harassed them or tapped their phones. And this from History News Network on the heated race/competition between MGM and Paramount (Ayn Rand project).
The prestigious Asia-Pacific Journal with three excerpts, including this on the suppression by the U.S. of the key film footage shot in the two cities by both Japanese and Americans.
More on the book here.
"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
"A fascinating book, and yet, because of the Hollywood shenanigans, weirdly fun." -- Harry Shearer, Le Show
“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
"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
"Seriously, this is a great book. The amazing information in Mitchell's work speak a lot to the present day." -- Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools