The career of author Richard Rhodes spans over four decades of history as well as subject matter ranging from early articles on dogs and horses for publications such as Harper's and Esquire to a handful of novels since 1973. However, he has made his most important mark in nonfiction (or "verity," a term he prefers), with an impressive bibliography on the subject of nuclear bombs.
The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons, published first in 2010 and released this month by Vintage Books in a trade paper edition, is his latest treasure of information and anecdotes that mark the landscape of international politics and nuclear history in the post-Cold War era. It is a book of remarkable depth, unbiased in its presentation, and powerfully logical in its conclusions.
Children of the Cold War will easily recall the heated debates as well as the horrific nightmares dramatically expressed in the political arena, dating back to such television campaign ads as the one by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the "Daisy Girl" ad, in his successful 1964 bid for the White House against Arizona senator, and noted conservative idealogue, Barry Goldwater.
Fear haunted the generation of American children born in that era as they became aware of their vulnerability to nuclear attacks by America's ideological foes. A measure of false comfort was attempted upon children against the hopelessness and fear of a real attack. In public schools, students were required to participate in atomic bomb drills using a "duck and cover" defense, sometimes evoking increased fear, rather than a feeling of security.
Though the public's understanding of the power of nuclear bombs was severely lacking, it was nonetheless only a modest picture of the horror that would be visited upon Americans in the event of a real attack upon the country. Until the 1990s when the Cold War ended, the subject of nuclear arms was debated during political contests, citing mind-numbing facts and figures, to the point of Americans being lulled asleep regarding the potential of mass destruction. It was a state of sleep from which they would not awaken until September 11, 2001, when their vulnerability was exposed, for real this time, in the tragic events in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.