In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address as president coined a term that reverberates still: the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe warned against granting the "military-industrial complex" too influential a position in the U.S. In the intervening 50 years, in addition to taking center stage in the economy and in politics, that military-industrial complex has also stepped into the cultural spotlight. The act, the planning, the execution, the aftermath of war in general—not any particular conflict—now constitute a key subject in our national dialogue.
That means books about war and warfare in general are growing in number. In November, Norton will publish a compendium of conflicts, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities by Matthew White, which includes everything from the Second Punic War to the Rwandan genocide. Senior editor Brendan Curry says, “Reading Matthew’s book is probably the only time—outside of Monty Python, of course—that I’ve belly laughed at the Crusades. And yet, you can tell that his project is animated by more than just humor. There’s a sense of justice, of looking out for the little guy, that pervades the book.”
Also coming in November is Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War (Free Press) by Eliot A. Cohen. According to senior editor Alessandra Bastagli, “Cohen draws parallels between two centuries of deadly battles [against Native Americans] and our current wars, showing how the American way of war was shaped in those pivotal years.”
Readers of war and military books are demanding. Says Penguin Press publisher Scott Moyers, “Because this is a category whose core constituency is very knowledgeable, has high standards, and is relatively wired together, a book really has to say something new and say it with great authority.” In January Penguin Press will publish Paula Broadwell’s All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, written with Vernon Loeb. Moyers notes, “Broadwell is an Army Reserve Special Forces officer whose long, deep embeds with General Petraeus and the U.S. leadership cadre around him has yielded a book about modern war unprecedented in its revelations and insights.”
The University Press of Kansas has done unusually well in this category. Editor-in-chief Michael Briggs reports, “Four of our top 10 bestselling titles of the last fiscal year were in military history, with WWII—especially books on the Eastern Front—still very strong. But we’re seeing a lot more interest in current wars and military doctrine, with an emphasis on lessons learned.” Coming in September is a comprehensive work by Walter E. Kretchik—U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror.
WWII, and to a lesser degree the Civil War, are perennially popular topics for this category—a trend that shows no signs of waning. Da Capo senior publicity director Lissa Warren calls these titles “the old reliables” and points out that while Da Capo has successfully published titles on Iraq and Afghanistan in the past, it has no such books this fall.
“We’re still seeing proposals or books on the current entanglements, but they’re fewer, and somehow they just don’t seem as fresh as they did a few years ago. Perhaps this reflects the war fatigue many Americans are feeling,” says Warren. Out next month is The Sword of St. Michael, a history of the 82nd Airborne Division, and in December—scheduled to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor—Da Capo will publish Pearl Harbor Christmas by Stanley Weintraub.
Berkley senior executive editor Natalee Rosenstein says, “WWII memoirs continue to do very well for us. These are timeless stories of true American heroes who are leaving us at a very rapid rate. It makes it even more urgent that their stories be presented now for the generations to come.” In September Berkley Caliber will publish Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila, and NAL will publish Undersea Warrior: The World War II Story of “Mush” Morton and the USS Wahoo by Don Keith in November.
Skyhorse associate publisher Bill Wolfsthal says, “Great history, like great fiction, comes from great stories. It just happens that WWII continues to provide great storytelling.” Due in November are Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr’s Sea Dog Bamse, about a WWII Navy crew and its St. Bernard mascot, and The SS Dirlewanger Brigade: The History of the Black Hunters by Christian Ingrao and Phoebe Green.
At National Geographic, director of communications Ann M. Day says, “We have built our presence in this category through a combined direct response and retail strategy, with an emphasis on Civil War and WWII titles.” These include October’s The Untold Civil War by Civil War scholar James Robertson, which, editor Neil Kagan explains, “brings history to life in a collection of 132 true stories revealing the personal dramas that took place as great events unfolded.”components/article_pagination.html not found (No such file or directory)