Praise for Dominic Sandbrook's Mad As Hell:
“Frisky and intelligent. . . . Among the most readable histories of the 1970s I’ve come across.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“An entertaining yet substantial book about a wince-inducing era. When it comes to the Seventies, Sandbrook knows the way we were, even if we wish we hadn’t been.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“A rich stew. . . . Sandbrook brings a fresh perspective [and a] knack for blending social, cultural, and political history.”
—The Boston Globe
“A terrific read. . . . Sandbrook brings the 1970s back to vivid life in Mad as Hell, his entertaining, opinionated take on the politics, economics, and cultural signifiers of a decade he views as the incubator of today’s right wing.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“A sweeping and compelling look at the rise of the populist right. . . . Sandbrook is brilliant in how he ties these events together and offers candid portrayals of presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. . . . He illuminates pieces of our history, affording us a deeper understanding of their resonance in our own time.”
—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“A useful contribution. . . . Sandbrook knows the territory well and analyzes it with understanding and sympathy.”
—The Washington Post
“Impressive and evenhanded. . . . Sandbrook is a muscular writer with an eye for the telling detail. . . . This is the best history I’ve yet read of the ‘70s.”
—Brian C. Anderson, Commentary
“A lively and lucid narrative history of the ‘70s. . . . Sharply etched.”
“Sandbrook’s swashbuckling, capacious account of 1970s populism—aptly titled Mad as Hell—captures the inchoate fury that seemed to permeate the nation. . . . The book offers striking vignettes from the rise of a populist insurgency.”
“Throughout this incredible book there are insights, observations, and the intricate crafting of words and phrases that leave the reader breathless. . . . Characters, including Henry Kissinger, Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and Spiro Agnew, float through its pages likes escapees from some mad gypsy circus. Somehow, Sandbrook has captured all of the history missteps and bumps in the road that made the 1970s one of the most intriguing decades ever. This is historical reporting by a gifted writer at the top of his game.”
“First-rate. . . . [Sandbrook] is able to view history panoramically, almost as a living, breathing organism, by collecting and effectively using vast numbers of on-the-ground anecdotes. When it comes time for a future Edward Gibbon to explore the decline and fall of the American Republic, it is quite possible that he or she will zero in on the cultural trends and economic upheavals of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. If that is the case, Mad as Hell will be there as a guiding light.”
—Columbia Journalism Review
“A shrewd, sparkling politico-cultural history of post-Watergate America. . . . [Sandbrook’s] subtle, well-written narrative of wrathful little guys confronting a faltering establishment illuminates a crucial aspect of a time much like our own.”
“Intensely readable. . . . Chock-full of insights about the moments those of us who survived the 70s remember all too clearly.”
—Sacramento News & Review
What kept me reading Mad as Hell are Mr. Sandbrook's deft, dryly funny observations…He's got a shrewd eye for detail…Mad as Hell is frisky and intelligent; it's among the most readable histories of the 1970s I've come across.
The New York Times
The story of the '70s has been told many times in many books, but it bears repeating now that its influence on the country's politics and morale has become somewhat clearer. Mad as Hell is a useful contribution to this literature…As one who was in his 30s for almost all of the decade and deeply engaged with everything in its political, social and cultural life, I have no complaints about Sandbrook's depiction of the time…[he] knows the territory well and analyzes it with understanding and sympathy.
The Washington Post
Inspired by the famous scene in Network in which TV watchers howl their inchoate rage, historian Sandbrook (Eugene McCarthy) offers a shrewd, sparkling politico-cultural history of post-Watergate America. Sandbrook locates the decade's heart in the popular distrust and subsequent resentment of all institutions--governments, corporations, and unions. The individualism that results, Sandbrook argues, resonates with the roots of evangelicalism and develops into the beginnings of right-wing Christian populism. This fertile if not entirely original take on the era offers insightful interpretations of 1970s watersheds, from Jimmy Carter's canny "outsider" presidential campaign to property-tax revolts and battles over school busing and the ERA. Sandbrook sets his chronicle against a panorama of gasoline lines, stagflation, and epochal changes in race relations, women's roles, and sexual mores, woven together with cultural touchstones from Bruce Springsteen to Charlie's Angels. Sandbrook's account of right-wing populism as a mass phenomenon, fed by real grievances over social and economic turmoil and a pervasive sense of decline, largely misses the role of business interests; still, his subtle, well-written narrative of wrathful little guys confronting a faltering establishment illuminates a crucial aspect of a time much like our own. Photos. (Feb.)
Mad as Hell is a sweeping and compelling look at the rise of the populist right, offering serious reflection as to how we got to this point in history. Today, a movement has emerged out of those grimmest of times in the 1970s. (Dennis Moore)
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," screamed antihero Howard Beale in the 1976 blockbuster motion picture Network. British historian Sandbrook (Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism) uses this iconic jeremiad to aptly portray the decade that featured a populist resurgence against big government. The book is mostly the story of three unpopular Presidents—Nixon, Ford, and Carter—but Sandbrook describes many more outlets for public rage: Watergate, crime, busing, inflation, job loss, the Iranian hostage crisis, and antigay and antifeminist backlashes. This social turbulence led to the further demise of liberalism and the emergence of Sunbelt conservatism that continues to define the Republican Party. Sandbrook also shows how films, TV, books, music, and even the Dallas Cowboys contributed to the spirit of the times. His book compares favorably to Jefferson Cowie's excellent Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, which investigates the fall of labor during the decade. VERDICT A summation of the events and social upheavals would have been helpful, yet Sandbrook offers a compelling narrative, reminiscent of William Manchester and Theodore White, that will engross general readers and scholars. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, PA
A British historian revisits the politics and culture of a miserable American decade.
Tom Wolfe famously dubbed the 1970s "The 'Me' Decade," when anything hopeful or noble about the '60s either curdled or congealed. Three undistinguished presidencies—Nixon, Ford and Carter—presided over an angry, resentful, self-absorbed populace reeling from Vietnam and Watergate and suffering from high unemployment, inflation and taxes. At the same time, liberalism dozed, either unaware or dismissive of the gathering conservative reaction to a corrupt establishment that, to them, fostered permissiveness, lawlessness and regular assaults on the traditional family. Against this backdrop of cultural decay, working-class discontent and middle-class resentment arose the populist right. Scorned by opponents as kooks and racists, derided as poorly educated and fearful of modernity, these activists helped prepare the ground for the Reagan Revolution. Sandbrook's principal cast includes characters like James Dobson and his Focus on the Family pressure group; Howard Jarvis, the California anti-tax crusader; Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts and Robert Schuller, evangelists who moved boldly into the political arena; singer Anita Bryant, who campaigned against a gay-rights ordinance in Florida; Louise Day Hicks, who led demonstrations against busing in South Boston; Phyllis Schlafly, who spearheaded opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; Richard Viguerie, who invented direct-mail fundraising on behalf of conservative causes; and Paul Weyrich, who helped bring big money to the movement and whose Heritage Foundation offered ideological guidance. Sandbrook (Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles, 2005, etc.) also surveys a multitude of '70s phenomena, including redneck chic, the booming of the Sunbelt, the revival of country music, the surprising nostalgia for the '50s, Bobby Riggs v. Billy Jean King, Norman Mailer v. Germaine Greer, New York as Fear City and California Dreaming becoming the Golden State Nightmare.
The author's frequent allusions to the era's films, TV shows, books and music lend color and context to an already penetrating and evenhanded political analysis.