Books by Peter Hernon

HISTORY
Released: June 13, 2017

"A wise, elegant study to add to the World War I archives."
An intriguing work of World War I research resurrects the little-known history of a massive German luxury liner that was confiscated and retooled for the American war effort. Read full book review >
8.4 by Peter Hernon
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 1, 1999

A big book about big earthquakes that ought to be scarier than it is, by the author of The Kindling Effect (1996). The New Madrid Seismic Zone isn't something most people worry about when they worry about earthquakes. After all, it's nowhere near the dreaded San Andreas Fault—or, for that matter, even in California. Deceptively quiet, it lurks instead in middle America, stretching for 140 miles over parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and other heartland states. But the fact is, three of the most potent eruptions on record in North America have taken place there. True, that was back in1811—12; not a great deal has happened to menace anyone since. And then, suddenly, the wait is over: a monster quake comes crashing through the Richter scale to flatten most of the Midwest. Bad as that is, the real concern is the next one, "the Big One," expected to provoke "the gravest crisis the country has faced since the Civil War," as an advisor informs President Nathan Ross. Even as it is, the cities are burning, and panicky citizens are looting, scavenging, and gunning one another down (ironically) in an all-out effort to survive. Then a corps of embattled seismologists, desperate to find a way of thwarting Mother Nature, arrives at an answer almost as horrific as the problem: a mini-nuclear explosion to serve as a deterrent. There's disagreement, conflict—the righteous seismologists battle their selfish, career-driven peers, while the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. Meantime, despite riot, rampage, and havoc, hunky seismologist John Atkins still manages to connect with luscious seismologist Elizabeth Holleran, and the earth moves for all of the usual good, old reasons. Research receives the bulk of Hernon's attention, while characterization gets but a lick and a promise. Which means the science convinces and the scientists don't. Which means 8.4 rates a middling 4.8. (First printing of 75,000, $75,000 ad/promo, miniseries to NBC/Avent) Read full book review >
THE KINDLING EFFECT by Peter Hernon
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

An engrossingly macabre debut novel by St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent Hernon (coauthor of Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty, 1991). In the argot of neuropathology, ``kindling'' is a horrific process employing an electric current to sensitize an animal's brain—to the point where it goes into spontaneous seizure and is effectively reprogrammed, permanently modifying certain behavioral patterns (antisocial or otherwise). And thereby hangs the tale spun by Hernon. His hero, John Brook, jumps at the chance to join the elite staff of Dr. Robert Hartigan's St. Louisbased clinic, celebrated for developing advanced treatments for severe mental illness, including criminal pathologies. The young forensic psychiatrist is also looking forward to renewing old acquaintances with Jenny Malone, a Ph.D. psychologist with whom he had a fling at the University of Chicago. What Brook doesn't at first appreciate is that the unscrupulous Hartigan and his ambitious subordinates are conducting dreadful experiments on the brains of unwilling convicts (supplied by a venal warden at the state penitentiary). Their efforts are underwritten by James Paulus, a wealthy (albeit delusional) conservative who's convinced kindling could solve America's violent-crime problem and put him in the White House. Unfortunately, Hartigan is experiencing grave difficulties in achieving the breakthroughs he has promised, and when two dangerous prisoners driven intermittently mad by their electroshock therapies make a successful break from the clinic, Brook finally realizes something must be done. With the intrepid Malone in tow, the determined shrink pursues Ed Lind, a bank robber he believes could be rehabilitated. Brook gets his man, and the unlikely trio heads for a sanctuary in the Smoky Mountains. Flushed from their refuge by Tom Brody, the clinic's ruthless security chief, and a crew of heavies, they make their last stand atop a forest-fire spotter's tower at the height of a November blizzard in North Carolina's hill country. Robin Cook meets Soldier of Fortune in a gripping (if often over-the-top) thriller chock-full of medico-legal arcana. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 24, 1991

Fascinating, outrageous, factual saga of America's powerful beer barons—the Busch family of St. Louis. Adolphus Busch—wine connoisseur and scorner of his flagship beer, Budweiser (``Ach, dot schlop?''), battler of Prohibition and shrewd judge of human nature (``Another bad trait in the American's character is hypocrisy. He recommends...prohibition...while at the same time drinks like a fish and becomes drunk as a fool''), influence purchaser (Pres. Taft rewarded Busch's campaign-help by appointing Busch's personal lawyer secretary of commerce)—arrived in St. Louis from Germany in 1857. By his death, he had founded a family dynasty that today has the lion's share of the US beer market (and a CEO earning $22 million in 1988). With more than 200 interviews and several thousand pages of public and private documents, Hernon and Ganey (special projects reporter and state capital bureau chief, respectively, for the St. Louis Post Dispatch) show how the succeeding five generations of this family made enough connections—Adolph Hitler; Al Capone; Presidents Taft, T. Roosevelt, FDR, Truman—and created enough scandals—drug addiction, alcoholism, illegitimate children, ear-ripping assault, murder over homosexual liaison—to dwarf the peccadilloes of the Kennedys. And all this while keeping the cork in the bottle! The authors had difficulty gaining access to the current chief—August R. Busch—whose principal bogeyman is what he calls the ``neoprohibitionist'' movement. Busch, it seems, has good reasons to fear probing. For example, during the 60's, Anheuser-Busch hired a team at the Univ. of Penn.'s Wharton School to study drinking behavior. The result was a profile of four types of drinkers, two of which drank to escape personal or social failure. The advertising then zeroed in on these ``target market segments'' with splendid success. Adroitly told, fresh, provocative, with plenty of froth and also substance; certain to excite comment. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >