Books by Thurston Clarke

NONFICTION
Released: April 30, 2019

"A welcome addition to the literature on the Vietnam War."
A detailed account of the last desperate days of the American presence in Vietnam. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Aug. 6, 2013

"This detailed, mostly worshipful account will not convince everyone, but few will put it down."
Prolific popular historian Clarke (The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America, 2008, etc.) argues that the charismatic president, whose achievements are generally low-rated by scholars, in his final months revealed himself as a great statesman. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 1, 2008

"Generous without being slavish, beautifully capturing Kennedy's passion and dignity."
Tremendously moving chronicle of Bobby Kennedy's 1968 run for president. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 8, 2004

"An artful addition to Kennedyana, complete with detailed literary forensics that will inevitably invite a comparison to the present state of political rhetoric and contemplation of what we have lost."
Comprehensive account of the day a young president took the oath of office and gave one of the great speeches of the 20th century. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

"A competent travelogue, but not much more."
A middling memoir of travels among the world's far-flung islands. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 1, 1996

In this thoroughly entertaining travel narrative, Clarke (Pearl Harbor Ghosts: A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now, 1991, etc.) takes the measure of the San Andreas fault, that 750-mile scar running head to foot through California, and finds residing along the crack a sideshow's worth of oddballs, shysters, and ugly memories. The fault comes ashore in rugged, remote Shelter Cove, where Clarke picks it up. One of those real-estate diddles classic to coastal developments, the cove is the source for an endless river of cranks, misfits, eccentrics, and garden variety weirdos running down the fault line: folks with headaches that predict earthquakes (perhaps the magnetite in their inner ears picks up electromagnetic signals from grinding tectonic plates); the insane Hoods gang members who commit meanness in Saratoga; garlic thieves in Gilroy; vicious counterculturalists in Bolinas; a pathetic, bloated flasher with a car full of Wendy's wrappers. More gratifying is the Anderson Valley Advertiser, ``the funniest, nastiest, most high- minded and vulgar, entertaining, and addictive small-town weekly newspaper in the nation,'' and its editor Bruce Anderson. Then again, Clarke never shrinks from serious business: He chronicles the devastation of the Wiyot Indians around Eureka and experiences the brutal clearcuts of Humboldt and Mendocino counties, where the land has come to resemble the ``fur of a sick cat'' (unhappily, since redwoods can be used as seismic timetables—Clarke is forever on the quake beat). Knit through the journey, pretty much stealing the show, are Clarke's tack-sharp landscape sketches, for the San Andreas is a genius at ``creating razorback ridges, folded green hills, soaring sea cliffs, pink mountains rising from desert, and jumbled wine-friendly valleys.'' A nearly edible travelogue—smooth as mousse, full of savory tidbits, and memorable. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Sept. 18, 1991

Exploration in great human depth of a pivotal American and Japanese event, by Clarke (Equator, 1988; By Blood and Fire, 1981, etc.). Innocence and the ever-present Japanese are Clarke's themes in this meticulously researched meditation on FDR's ``day that will live in infamy.'' Clarke's images of Hawaiian colonial torpor and American military ineptitude, based on eyewitness reports and interviews, are unforgettable. Between the carefully crafted lines is the pre-WW II America that felt itself invulnerable: ``General Short did not understand [radar] nor think it was necessary''; fighter aircraft were ``disarmed and rolled into a tight anti-sabotage formation on the tarmac, making it impossible to arm and launch them all in under four hours.'' Meanwhile, in Washington, the final act of a deadly drama is playing out as last-minute information is fumbled by both US and Japanese bureaucracies. Above Hawaii in a small plane, Ensign Tadeo Yoshikawa, a.k.a. Vice Consul Yaeishi Morimura, is finishing his work as ``the most effective and important spy in the world with many contenders for that title.'' (He also washes dishes to eavesdrop on blue-collar help, observes from a glass- bottomed boat, and swims in the harbor mouth looking for submarine nets.) Clarke is masterful in the personal realities- -the shell-shock and heroism; the ripping apart of close, Japanese-American relationships; the still-inadmissable division of Nisei loyalties; and the hysterical reactions. (An officer loses it and is carried away on a stretcher; a woman imagines herself dead, and her husband with another woman; observers write detailed descriptions of nonexistent German planes and pilots.) Woven into the dreamlike tapestry are sharp, provocative bits on contemporary Japanese-US realities, several connected with insensitive Japanese tourists at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, and angry American reactions—including the author's. Powerful, compelling prose lays this ghost to rest with dignity and painstaking honesty. (Thirty-two b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >