cover image The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy

The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy

James Cross Giblin, . . Clarion, $22 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-618-61058-7

Using extensive detail and context, this ambitious biography explores one of the country's most controversial senators. In 27 chapters, punctuated by b&w photos and political cartoons, Giblin (The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler ) presents Sen. Joe McCarthy as a risk-taking, limelight-loving, revenge-seeking demagogue. The author takes readers from McCarthy's childhood in rural Wisconsin to his work as a judge, Marine, and, finally, U.S. senator. Little-known facts (McCarthy was a chicken farmer before starting high school at age 20, and he graduated in one year) pique interest early. However, the narrative bogs down somewhat. The introduction of numerous political figures and their backgrounds, international crises (alleged torture of German WWII prisoners by the U.S., battles in the Korean War, etc.), polling data, and excerpts from Senate hearings may have younger readers losing the man amid the contextual asides. (Older audiences, though, should appreciate the comprehensiveness.) While the extensive background slows the story, Giblin's unmistakable research and passion for the subject add up to a comprehensive portrayal of a complex figure. Abundant source notes and further reading suggestions conclude this expansive undertaking. Ages 12–up. (Dec.)