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In This Issue

June 2024
3min read

Alan Shepard tells in this month’s cover story of his first small step into space, in 1961; a batch of new books coming out in time for July’s moon-landing anniversary takes the story from there. Shepard’s own version, from which our article was adapted, is Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon (Turner Publishing, 365 pages, $21.95, CODE: TPC -1), coauthored with his Mercury Seven crewmate Deke : Slayton, who died last year. “This is a very tough place,” Shepard told I Mission Control upon stepping onto the moon’s surface as part of Apollo 14 . Despite all the years of training, the experience of standing on the moon still moved him to tears, while his fellow astronaut Ed Mitchell reported that “the presence of divinity became almost palpable.” A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin (Viking, 688 pages, $27.95, CODE: PEN -1) tells the full story, sometimes hour by hour, of the Apollo missions Shepard’s glorious first ride made possible, including Shepard’s own famous lunar golf shot ten years after his first voyage.

Having read Brock Yates’s tribute to the mighty Duesenberg, you’ll want to acquire one for yourself, and since they regularly trade at over a million dollars there’s a certain pleasure in going through the Illustrated Duesenberg Buyer’s Guide by Josh B. Malks (Motorbooks International, 128 pages, $16.95 soft cover, CODE: MTB -1), reading the brisk, straightforward descriptions of these sublime machines as though you were trying to decide between a Chevrolet Suburban and a Jeep Grand Cherokee. “If you’re buying your Duesenberg to keep forever, then buy the body that you love. If you intend to resell in the future, remember that the issue then will not be what you like, but what people prefer to buy.” Open cars generally bring the higher prices, but everything in the authoritative guide to the various coach builders looks tasty, hardtop or not. Beware retro-fitted superchargers; know your serial numbers; don’t expect effortless gear shifting; and don’t count on getting more than eight miles per gallon. The editors were reassured to learn from the bibliography that “Duesenbergs are so impressive that every respectable periodical has to do an article about one every so often.”

And once you’ve made your selection, you’ll need the Duesenberg Model J Owner’s Companion (Motorbooks International, 192 pages, $19.95, CODE: MTB -2), a compilation that includes the Model J “Owner’s Instruction Book,” which gives a pretty good idea about what made these cars special: “The green signal light at the right side marked ‘Bat’ when burning approximately every 1500 miles reminds you that the battery should be inspected.…The red signal light at the left side when burning approximately every 60-80 miles indicates that the chassis lubricating mechanism is operating and immediately afterward the green signal light should flash showing that oil is being delivered to the various shackle bearings.” Chassis and engine are all carefully diagrammed, and there’s a selection of advertisements showing the terrifyingly confident people about whom could be said: “He/She drives a Duesenberg.”

Our conversation between Willie Morris and William Ferris fits into a very long tradition of Southern self-examination, and that tradition is documented and celebrated in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture , edited by William Ferris and Charles Reagan Wilson (University of North Carolina Press, 1,634 pages, $69.95, CODE: UNC -4). The volume considers the American South in all its aspects, through an inventory of hundreds of entries on the region’s politics, cuisine, myths, music, literature, and habits of belief.

Joseph E. Persico writes in this issue about the haunting trail he followed in tracking down the full story of the world’s most momentous war-crimes proceedings for his new book Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial (Viking Penguin, 520 pages, $25.95, CODE: PEN -2). The book, just published, brings to life the trials and the terrible characters who sat in the dock at them—Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Streicher, Speer, and the rest—and explores the implications of the whole event both for the world order of the decades that followed and for our very understanding of humanity.

Bruce D. Porter’s recent book War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics (The Free Press, 380 pages, $27.95, CODE: FEP -1) expands on and amplifies the points made by Professor Porter in “The Warfare State.”

The subject of Geoffrey Ward’s column this month is The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America by John Demos (Knopf, 315 pages, $25.00, CODE: RAN -10). Gene Smith writes in “American Characters” in this issue about the obscure world of nineteenth-century women’s baseball; the subject is also illuminated by Gai Ingham Berlage’s new book Women in Baseball (Praeger Publishers, 224 pages, $22.50, CODE: PGH -1). The author has unearthed a parallel history of the national game, from the first Vassar nine in the 1860s to the All American Girls’ Professional League of World War II.

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