During the atomic, earthshaking first 120 days of Harry Truman's unlikely presidency, an unprepared, small-town man had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and a secret weapon of unimaginable power—marking the most dramatic rise to greatness in American history.
A.J. Baime is the New York Times bestselling author of The Arsenal of Democracy (2014) and Go Like Hell (2009). Both books are in development for major motion pictures. Baime is a longtime regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and his articles have also appeared in the New York Times, Popular Science, and Men's Journal.
Journalist and editor Baime (The Arsenal of Democracy) carves out a slice of the Truman presidency and serves up an attractive tale for fans of both presidential and WWII history. He opens with an acknowledgement of Truman’s divisive legacy, then sidesteps the debate by arguing that, whether the Missourian is considered among one of the best or the worst presidents, “the first four months of his administration should rank as the most challenging and action-packed” of any president’s. When F.D.R. decided to run for an unprecedented fourth term, he selected Truman, a senator from Missouri whom he barely knew, as his vice president. The position didn’t afford Truman access to Roosevelt’s inner circle and, after F.D.R.’s death, Truman found himself unprepared for the presidency. He proved a quick study, however, and Baime’s account centers on how Truman brought the U.S. through the end of WWII. He writes admiringly of Truman’s negotiations with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin over the future of postwar Europe and of his decision to use an atomic bomb on Japan to end the war in the Pacific. Baime opens a clear, if narrow, window on a pivotal moment in history. Illus. Agent: Scott Waxman, Waxman Leavell Literary. (Oct.)
★ 10/01/2017Library Journal
Baime (Arsenal of Democracy) examines the harrowing first few months of Harry Truman's (1884-1972) unexpected first term in office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. In highlighting their stark differences, Baime describes Roosevelt as representing the people while Truman was the people. The author begins with Truman's background as a farmer and former haberdasher from Missouri, then demonstrates how the president was viewed as ordinary and unqualified for the position. In four months, Truman would chair the Potsdam Conference; help create the United Nations; sign the London Agreement, setting the stage for the Nuremberg Trials; and lead Germany and Japan to surrender at the end of World War II. By relying mostly on primary sources, Baime allows for a better perspective of Truman, in which his political decisions are equally as significant as the correspondence with his beloved wife, daughter, and mother. He also adeptly manages to include nuanced U.S.-Russia relations and East Asian diplomacy. VERDICT Those seeking an all-encompassing biography of Truman before he took office and after World War II should seek out David McCullough's Truman. However, Baime's spotlight on an influential segment of the 21st century and the man who saw the country through it will be appreciated by most readers. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY
A man unprepared for the presidency faces dire challenges.On April 12, 1945, when Franklin Roosevelt suddenly died, Harry Truman (1884-1972) ascended to the presidency. By his own estimation, he was the wrong man at the wrong time. "I'm not big enough for this job," he remarked to a Vermont senator soon after being sworn in. Many in the U.S. echoed his concern: "The gravest question mark in every American heart is about Truman," a senator from Michigan wrote. "Can he swing the job?" Drawing on letters, memoirs, and published sources, journalist Baime (The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War, 2014), a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, offers a fast-paced, well-detailed chronology of Truman's transformation from an official with little administrative responsibility into a politically astute and ultimately beloved leader. After giving a standard overview of Truman's biography in the first third of the book, the author follows the new president's day-to-day—and sometimes hour-by-hour—schedule as he confronted the challenges of a nation embroiled in war. Just weeks after he took office, Germany surrendered. It was Truman's 61st birthday, and although he felt relieved, he knew, as he announced to the press, "our victory is but half-won." The Allies still faced "the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese," and Truman received conflicting advice about how to surmount that threat. Just days before Germany fell, he had learned, for the first time, about the development of the atomic bomb, a weapon that he believed could force Japan's unconditional surrender. As weeks turned into months, his colleagues "singled out a curious trait about Truman": his firm decisiveness. "You could go into Truman's office with a question and come out with a decision more swiftly than any man I have ever known," his Soviet ambassador said. As Baime shows, that decisiveness came into play at his meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam and in his go-ahead to obliterate Hiroshima. A warmly human portrait of an unlikely president.
A. J. Baime is a master. His reporting and storytelling are woven to hypnotic effect. Opening the first page of The Accidental President is like pulling up a chair to Truman’s White House desk where we sit engrossed as world events unfold in the most intimate manner, titanic in scale. Baime brings us as close as we are likely to get to this completely surprising, quirky, wily, and transformational president. This is history and humanity in lush, vivid color.”—Doug Stanton, author of The Odyssey of Echo Company and Horse SoldiersFrom the Publisher
“A. J. Baime is a master storyteller, and The Accidental President contains everything a reader could ever want from a work of history: characters that jump off the page, tension that makes your pulse pound, and smooth, smart writing that makes you think. Amazing!”—Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man
“Intimate and absorbing, A. J. Baime’s biography uses new sources to paint Harry Truman as a complex and thoroughly American figure. A sharply drawn portrait of an era as well as a man.”—Stephan Talty, author of The Black Hand and Agent Garbo
“No president in history—particularly one who came in without having been briefed by his predecessor—has faced such monumental decisions. A. J. Baime has put a spotlight on those four months, recounting them faithfully and with heart, so that you come away with not only a sense of history, but a sense of the man, Harry Truman, as well. As Grandpa himself said a few years later, ‘It’s hell to be president of the greatest most powerful nation on earth.’”—Clifton Truman Daniel, Truman’s grandson and author of Growing Up with My Grandfather: Memories of Harry Truman
“An entertaining new history of Truman’s first months in office . . . filled with events that are strikingly proportionate to what the Trump administration has weathered since January.”—John Batchelor, Daily Beast
“A fast-paced, well-detailed chronology of Truman’s transformation from an official with little administrative responsibility into a politically astute and ultimately beloved leader . . . A warmly human portrait of an unlikely president.” —Kirkus Reviews