cover image And the Band Played on: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

And the Band Played on: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

Randy Shilts. St. Martin's Press, $24.95 (630pp) ISBN 978-0-312-00994-6

An exhaustive account of the early years of the AIDS crisis, this outlines the medical, social and political forces behind the epidemic's origin and rapid spread with a clarity and narrative drive that should appeal to an audience far broader than previous books on the topic. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Shilts successfully weaves comprehensive investigative reporting and commercial page-turner pacing, political intrigue and personal tragedy into a landmark work. Its importance cannot be overstated: few topics merit more attention from the general public, or, as Shilts's account makes appallingly clear, have been as successfully and deliberately shielded from the public at such a high cost of human lives. What starts as a medical mystery and the moving chronicle of a relentless killer soon evolves into an expose of deception and ineptitude at the highest levels of government. The tragedies of AIDS are many, and they continue to multiply, and Shilts conveys the hideous suffering and the heartbreak of so many senseless deaths. But his detailed examination of the health establishment, the government and the press reveals the emergence of a more treacherous menace in the initial failure of our guardian institutions to respond to the crisis, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of individuals in hard-hit New York and San Francisco and at the Centers for Disease Control. Shilts presents one alarming story after another without letting his own passionsevident in the sheer enormity of the projectcompromise the excellent reportage. The reader rises to fury at the apathy, silence and deception that have characterized the official response. Shilts concludes with Rock Hudson's public affliction in 1985, a watershed in the nation's awareness of the crisis. And the Band Played On could prove to be an equally important milestone, freeing vital funding and generating an even greater outpouring of sympathy and outrage. The book stands as a definitive reminder of the shameful injustice inflicted on this nation by the institutions in which we put our trust. 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour. (October 30)