In One Minute to Midnight, Michael Dobbs sets out to "help a new generation of readers relive the quintessential Cold War crisis" and, in particular, its harrowing climax on "Black Saturday," Oct. 27, just before the Kremlin leader lanced the tension by agreeing to withdraw the missiles. In this he succeeds brilliantly, marshaling diverse sources to relate an intensely human story of Americans, Russians and Cubans caught up in what the late historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. termed "the most dangerous moment in human history"…as the pages fill with memorable characters in extraordinary circumstances and exotic settings, and as the drama steadily builds, One Minute to Midnight evokes novelists like Alan Furst, John le Carre or Graham Greenea reminder that footnote-laden history need not take a backseat to fictional thrillers.
The Washington Post
Any new entry in the crowded field of books on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis must pass an immediate test: Is it just another recapitulation, or does it increase our net understanding of this seminal cold war event? By focusing on the activities of the American, Soviet and Cuban militaries during those tense October days, Michael Dobbs's One Minute to Midnight passes this test with flying colors. The result is a book with sobering new information about the world's only superpower nuclear confrontationas well as contemporary relevance.
The New York Times
Washington Postreporter Dobbs (Saboteurs) is a master at telling stories as they unfold and from a variety of perspectives. In this re-examination of the 1963 Bay of Pigs face-off between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., Dobbs combines visits to Cuba, discussions with Russian participants and fingertip command of archival and printed U.S. sources to describe a wild ride thatcontrary to the myth of Kennedy's steel-nerved crisis managementwas shaped by improvisation, guesswork and blind luck. Dobbs's protagonists act not out of malevolence, incompetence or machismo. Kennedy, Khrushchev and their advisers emerge as men desperately seeking a handle on a situation no one wanted and no one could resolve. In a densely packed, fast-paced, suspenseful narrative, Dobbs presents the crisis from its early stages through the decision to blockade Cuba and Kennedy's ordering of DEFCON 2, the last step before an attack, to the final resolution on October 27 and 28. The work's climax is a detailed reconstruction of the dry-mouthed, sweaty-armpits environment of those final hours before both sides backed down. From first to last, this sustains Dobbs's case that "crisis management" is a contradiction in terms. (June 5)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Beginning with Robert F. Kennedy's own account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thirteen Days, a steady stream of books and articles has sought to explain how this incredible episode came to be-and how it (thankfully) didn't end with a mushroom cloud. Building on the existing mountain of writings, Washington Post reporter Dobbs (Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire) has produced a remarkably well-written and detailed account of the weeklong drama in 1962. He draws on a large number of previously untapped American, Soviet, and Cuban primary and secondary sources and sets his exacting narrative within the broad historical context of Soviet-American relations. Even those who think they know everything about this event will learn new stories and gain further insight into the thinking of the major participants-both in Washington and in Moscow. This first-rate book belongs very prominently on the groaning shelf of earlier titles devoted to our first (and let us hope our last) nuclear crisis. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/08.]
A nuanced account of the events of October 1962, when the Cold War almost ran hot. Countless historians have noted that the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, but Washington Post reporter Dobbs (Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America, 2004, etc.) gives a vivid account of just how close to the brink the world truly came. The story begins at the Bay of Pigs, with John F. Kennedy's disastrous effort to land CIA-trained Cuban exiles in Cuba and bring down Fidel Castro's government. Castro's victory there, Kennedy was convinced, gave Nikita Khrushchev cause to devalue the American president: "Probably thinks I'm stupid. Maybe most important, he thinks that I had no guts." JFK had no love for his Soviet counterpart, to be sure, and less so when Khrushchev, citing treaty obligations, installed missiles on Cuba easily capable of delivering nuclear warheads anywhere in America. JFK was prepared to go to war to keep the missiles from going online. Khrushchev may not really have been, though, as Dobbs sagely observes: "Once set in motion, the machinery of war quickly acquired its own logic and momentum," adding that the unwritten protocol that neither side could appear hesitant made it difficult to back away from a martial stance once it was assumed. There were other difficulties, the author observes, including the slow speed of communications in those days, often still through letters delivered by hand. So it was when Khrushchev, having almost unleashed an attack on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, finally stepped back, writing to JFK that he had ordered the offensive missiles to be crated and sent back home. That decision, Dobbs notes, gave the Soviet Unionan edge in public relations, "yet another triumph for Moscow's peace-loving foreign policy over warmongering imperialists." Hard-line Soviets saw it as surrender, though, which contributed to Khrushchev's later fall. Dobbs's careful narrative supposes no prior knowledge of those long-ago events, making it a welcome introduction to that perilous time. First printing of 50,000