Thursday, March 10, 2022

Jeffrey Frank's "The Trials of Harry S. Truman"

Jeffrey Frank was a senior editor at The New Yorker, the deputy editor of The Washington Post’s Outlook section, and is the author of Ike and Dick. He has published four novels, among them the Washington Trilogy—The Columnist, Bad Publicity, and Trudy Hopedale—and is the coauthor, with Diana Crone Frank, of a new translation of Hans Christian Andersen stories, which won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Prize. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bookforum, and Vogue, among other publications.

Frank applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953, and reported the following:
Page 99 does its job: It’s the summer before the 1946 midterms, which would go badly for Truman, and just as Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace-- the former vice president-- is about to embarrass himself and Truman by promoting his own policy vis-à-vis Russia, and claiming Truman’s imprimatur. After that, stuff happens.

It’s not my favorite part of the book—far from it—but it does give an idea of what I was aiming for: to cover the sometimes strange, and fascinating, personalities of the Truman era, along its pressing issues—some of them still pressing in 2022.

The book is the biography of a presidency—at a time when America became a colossus. It’s also a character study of Harry Truman and the people around him—some of them forgotten by history. And it’s also a snapshot—even a panoramic snapshot—of an unsettled time that included: a federal "loyalty" program, rumors that Adolf Hitler was alive and living in Argentina, and such personalities as Joseph McCarthy, Billy Graham, and Mickey Spillane.
Visit Jeffrey Frank's website.

The Page 99 Test: Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue