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And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic / Edition 1

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By the time Rock Hudson's death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously? In answering these questions, Shilts weaves weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments.

Shilts shows that the epidemic spread wildly because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation's welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives. Against this backdrop, Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced. And the Band Played On is both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.

This "heroic work of journalism" (New York Times) reveals how the federal govrenment put budget considerations ahead of the nation's welfare.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A heroic work of journalism on what must rank as one of the foremost catastrophes of modern history."—The New York Times

"Stunning . . . An impressively researched and richly detailed narrative."—Time

"Rivals in power and intensity, and in the brilliance of its reporting and writing, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood."—The Boston Globe

"A monumental history."—The Washington Post Book World

"The most thorough, comprehensive exploration of the AIDS epidemic to date . . . It is fascinating, frightening, and essential reading."—San Francisco Sentinel

"A textbook on how institutions work—or fail to work—in the face of such a threat."—San Francisco Examiner

"A lucid and stunning indictment of public policy toward the vicious disease . . . A valuable work of political history."—Business Week

"Shilts successfully weaves comprehensive investigative reporting and commercial page-turning pacing, political intrigue, and personal tragedy into a landmark book . . . Its importance cannot be overstated."—Publishers Weekly

"A popular history of the early years of the AIDS crisis, the book conveys in detail the political complexities—and many different human dimensions—of the story. Reading Shilts, you wonder who will die next. You worry whether this terrible disease can ever be controlled. And you begin to feel anger at what Shilts portrays as the federal government's dithering . . . Shilts has produced the best—and what will likely be the most controversial—book yet on AIDS. Though many of the details in the book are familiar to veteran reporters, Shilts does not shy away from naming names and casting blame. He writes with passionate conviction, which is one of the book's strengths—and also, of course, a sound reason for some skepticism."—Jim Miller, Newsweek

"Shilts, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who has covered AIDS full-time since 1983, takes us almost day by day through the first five years of the unfolding epidemic and the responses—confusion and fear, denial and lindifference, courage and determination. It is at once a history and a passionate indictment."—H. Jack Geiger, The New York Times Book Review

Library Journal
SOC SCI This shocking and illuminating account by the best-selling author of Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military (Audio Reviews, LJ 8/93) remains one of the most important books of the last two decades. Beginning with the alleged ``pa tient zero''--a French Canadian flight at tendant whose coast-to-coast liaisons were pivotal in spreading the AIDS virus throughout the United States--Shilts documents the epidemic's first onslaught, as well as the attendant reactions (or nonreactions) by the media, national health organizations, mainstream America, and the gay community. Although the audiobook was originally released in 1988, a recent HBO original movie based on the book and the success of Conduct Unbecoming should revive interest in it. Actor Willem Dafoe narrates with calm assurance, and Shilts reads a new afterword in which he points out that the band continues to play. Until an unabridged version is available, all libraries should have a copy of this seminal work.-- Mark Annichiarico, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312241353
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1988
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 1.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy Shilts was born in 1951, in Davenport, Iowa. One of the first openly gay journalists hired at a major newspaper, he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle for thirteen years. He died of AIDS in 1994 at his home in the Sonoma County redwoods in California. He was the author of The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic (1987), and Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military (1993). He also wrote extensively for many major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, and The Advocate. And the Band Played On was made into a docudrama that was broadcast on HBO in 1993.

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Table of Contents


Dramatis Personae

The Bureaucracy


Part I. Behold, A Pale Horse

1. The Feast of the Hearts

Part II. Before/1980

2. Glory Days

3. Beaches of the Dispossessed

4. Foreshadowing

5. Freeze Frames

Part III. Paving the Road/1981

6. Critical Mass

7. Good Intentions

8. The Prettiest One

9. Ambush Poppers

10. Golf Courses of Science

11. Bad Moon Rising

Part IV. The Gathering Darkness/1982

12. Enemy Time

13. Patient Zero

14. Bicentennial Memories

15. Nightsweats

16. Too Much Blood

17. Entropy

18. Running on Empty

19. Forced Feeding

20. Dirty Secrets

21. Dancing in the Dark

Part V. Battle Lines/January-June 1983

22. Let It Bleed

23. Midnight Confessions

24. Denial

25. Anger

26. The Big Enchilada

27. Turning Points

28. Only the Good

29. Priorities

30. Meanwhile

31. AIDSpeak Spoken Here

32. Star Quality

Part VI. Rituals/July-December 1983

33. Marathons

34. Just Another Day

35. Politics

36. Science

37. Public Health

38. Journalism

39. People

Part VII. Lights & Tunnels/1984

40. Prisoners

41. Bargaining

42. The Feast of the Hearts, Part II

43. Squeeze Play

44. Traitors

45. Political Science

46. Downbound Train

47. Republicans and Democrats

48. Embarrassed

49. Depression

50. The War

Part VIII. The Butcher's Bill/1985

51. Heterosexuals

52. Exiles

53 Reckoning

54. Exposed

55. Awakening

56. Acceptance

57. Endgame

Part IX. Epilogue/After

58. Reunion

59. The Feast of the Hearts, Part III

Notes on Sources


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Hard to read, IMPOSSIBLE to put down.

    While I learned more about a the gay lifestyle than I really wanted to know, this taut, fascinating account of the AIDS crisis kept me rapt from start to finish. The author's journalistic skills serve him very well as he traces the chronology of the epidemic through a group of friends and their personal involvement in the crisis, intertwined with the medical and political entities attempting to identify the problem. As the author clearly shows, political conflicts within the gay and medical communities, as well as the denial and inertia of government, resulted in delaying solutions to stem the spread of the virus. Great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Make this Book Required Reading

    Absolutley brilliant chronicling of the first decade of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Demonstrates in no uncertain terms how our society missed the boat by letting early opportunities to curb the spread of HIV. Fascinating look at the social and governmental response, both in the U.S. and around the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the most amazing and educational books I have ever read .

    This is the first book I read by Randy Shilts, but upon completion I immediately read the rest of his books. Randy Shilts is an incredible artist who used his talents to bring to the world the staggering and horrific truth about the AIDS epidemic. While this book focuses on the devastating effect that aids had on the gay and lesbian community, it is a book that is newsworthy even today and relevant for all readers. For people seeking to learn more about the homosexual community, many leaders of the gay community who were lost, leaving the community for decades without leadership, appear in this book. Those people include Cleve Jones to Bill Krause to Larry Kramer. This book contains the most trustworthy accounts of a historic time than any novel I know, which was sourced using journalistic methods. In writing this book, Randy Shilts not only wrote himself into literary history, he became a hero of the gay community.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    Win a free ipad

    Kkiss you hand and type this in 3 different books and look under your pillow

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  • Posted January 17, 2014

    Haven't read it yet, but looks promising.

    I purchased for a later read, based on a suggestion by B & N. I can't review yet, but it looks to be a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    A must read

    An incredible look back at a frightening and frustrating time. Check out the documentary "How to Survive a Plague" - inspiring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Facinating Read

    Easy to read and very detailed. A must read for anyone who works in the healthcare industry.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    Best book ever. I read it years ago and it has stuck with me.

    Best book ever. I read it years ago and it has stuck with me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009


    This book is very detailed in its review of the politics and the environment of the
    early 1980's when the first case of AIDS was diagnosed. The politics of that time
    between the CDC, NIH, the state and federal government, and the gay community
    are fascinating and very scary. However, reading this book, one can draw
    comparable scenarios in the health care environment that continue to this day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Never Wanted to Read It...But WOW!

    Boy was I impressed. This epic chronology of the AIDS epidemic covers it all. How air travel helped spread AIDS from coast to coast among gay men in America. How sexual practices in vogue left U.S. gay males vulnerable. The role of Africa. The politics, homophobia, and institutional inaction. The impact of Rock Hudson. The differences in how New York City and San Francisco responded. The exponential spread of the epidemic. How gays started fighting back. The chilling delays for action in the blood bank industry. The rush to isolate the cause, which started petty turf wars between universities, science institutes, and between the U.S. and France. The battle for funds which were always too little too late. Details we either never knew or completely forgot about how this all unfolded.
    Some of the heroes are the scientists and doctors; some of the villains are the bureaucrats of the Reagan administration and of the state and local governments. As with his other books, there is plenty of blame and bravery to go around.
    Shilts was a journalist with a great technique for writing page-turner history. Even with all of our hindsight, it keeps us curious about who knew what when. Turns out I could barely put it down.
    Highly recommended as a modern history of our time for all adults who witnessed it or who were born later. A fantastic cast of real characters whose lives forever changed as did ours. Covers mostly 1976 to 1986.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2003


    The bible!. Randy covers the first six years of the epidemic in extreme detail as it actually happend.My kind of book.He exaustively cronicles each event in every location.I had a very difficult time putting it down.It is a great loss that he is no longer with us.I deffinately recomend this book to anyone who's interested in this hightly controversial time in our history.Clearly the greatest plague in modern history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2003

    an eye-opener

    First off, I must confess that I have not yet read the book but I have seen the HBO movie and understand it is very true to the book. If this is true, I am aprehensive to read it. This story about the epidemic of the AIDS virus has truly opened my eyes. The two things that made me the most fustrated was the Regan administration and the additude of Dr. Robert Gallo, who's goals seemed to lean more towards getting the credit for finding this disease than it should have about the cause of it and how it can be prevented. Also the bloodbank's unwillingness to scan blood for this disease which also contributed largely to the death toll. I cannot wait to read the book and I'm sure it will be amazing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2002

    A wake up call for my generation

    This book was amazing, frightening and liberating. A true wake up call for me and countless others on what actually happened in the beginning of AIDS. For those of us too young to remember the beginning of AIDS, this book shows us the importance of respect, humanity and fighting for the cause. I have read it and then read it again and I keep turning each page like it is my first time. Randy Shilts showed the struggle people went through just to live through this, all the time knowing they wouldnt. He also shows how people were so fearful of anything associated with the word gay, they let innocent people die. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants the truth and wants to be profoundly moved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2002

    Absolutely amazing

    this book is an essential read for anyone interested in any facet of the AIDS epidemic. it covers the disease medically, politically, and gives personal accounts of the bravery of its victims. highly recomended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2000

    Fabulous Histor regarding the AIDS epidemic

    This is a great book for anyone that wants to read about AIDS, how it was found, and what society did and did not do to cure the pandemic. The author chronicles the lives of AIDS patients, doctors, CDC staff members, and government offials and their roles in dealing with this 'Gay disease.' It is very factual and gives accounts of the numbers diagnosed, and dying with the disease as the years progressed from its first diagnoses onward.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2000

    Such an Important Book!!!

    If I could give it more than five I would. It is seriously the most detailed history of any time in place I have ever read. It is not only rich with information, but very touching and eye-opening. Learn about how stupid people can be and how politics killed thousands, no millions, unnessacarily. Also learn how endearing humans are and how a community came together which is no meager glory. ~Scarlett~

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    Posted February 15, 2011

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    Posted December 4, 2009

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    Posted August 26, 2010

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    Posted July 8, 2011

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