Brandt, Nat 1929–
Brandt, Nat 1929–
(Nathan Henry Brandt, Jr.)
PERSONAL: Born May 24, 1929, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Nathan Henry (a building contractor) and Della (Guterman) Brandt; married Patricia Flynn, 1950 (divorced, 1954); married Yanna Maria Kroyt (a television producer and writer), April 5, 1955; children: (first marriage) Kevin; (second marriage) Anthony, Ariane. Education: University of Rochester, B.A., 1951.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Southern Illinois University Press, P.O. Box 3697, Carbondale, IL 62902-3697.
CAREER: Writer and journalist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News, New York, NY, news writer, 1951–55; Plainville News, Plainville, CT, reporter, 1955–56; Bayonne Times, Bayonne, NJ, reporter, 1956–57; Newark Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, reporter, 1957–59; New York Times, New York, NY, copy editor, 1959–66; Cowles Book Co., New York, NY, senior editor, 1968; American Heritage Publishing Co., New York, NY, executive editor of magazine division, 1969–77; Publishers Weekly, New York, NY, managing editor, 1977–78, editor in chief, 1978–80.
Co-creator and head of research of the television series Crucible of the Millenium, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); adjunct professor, St. John's University, New York, NY, 1974–75 and 1980–85, and at New York University, 1986.
(Editor) F.Y.I.: Unexpected Answers to Everyday Questions, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1982.
(Editor) More F.Y.I.: Further Tips for Healthful Living, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1983.
(With John Sexton) How Free Are We?: What the Constitution Says We Can and Cannot Do, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1986.
The Man Who Tried to Burn New York, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1986.
The Town that Started the Civil War, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1990.
The Congressman Who Got Away with Murder, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1991.
(With wife, Yanna Brandt) Land Kills (fiction), Foul Play Press (Woodstock, VT), 1991.
(With Yanna Brandt) A Death in Bulloch Parish (fiction), Foul Play Press (Woodstock, VT), 1993.
Con Brio: Four Russians Called the Budapest String Quartet, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Massacre in Shansi, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1994.
Harlem at War: The Black Experience in World War II, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1996.
Mr. Tubbs' Civil War, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1996.
When Oberlin Was King of the Gridiron: The Heisman-Years, Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH), 2001.
Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbon-dale, IL), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Nat Brandt has written two mystery novels with his wife but is primarily known for his many nonfiction works. The author told CA: "I am interested only in researching and writing books that no other author has done. I go to primary sources whenever possible. My books are footnoted … [and] include a bibliography." The author went on to note, "I try to write narratives, tell a story, stimulated in great part by my experience at American Heritage magazine, where objectivity was stressed along with engagingly paced story-telling."
In The Town that Started the Civil War, for example, Brandt tells the story of how people in the town of Oberlin, Ohio, which was part of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape from their owners, became outraged when a bounty hunter captured a runaway slave. They took the slave back, hid him, and more than thirty were eventually indicted under the Fugitive Slave Act. Writing in Publishers Weekly, Genevieve Stuttaford called the book "first-rate scholarship … [and] history at its most enjoyable."
The Congressman Who Got Away with Murder relates the 1859 case of U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickels, who shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of composer Francis Scott Key, for having an affair with his wife. Sickels was the first person in the history of U.S. law to plead not guilty by virtue of insanity, and he was eventually acquitted. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "masterfully evokes Washington with its duels, slaves and Southern Ways."
Brandt provides an historical look at one of music's most illustrious string quartets in his book Con Brio: Four Russians Called the Budapest String Quartet. Brandt, who is the son-in-law of one of the disbanded quartet's former members, recounts how the quartet came together and follows their musical careers. He discusses their flight from the Nazis during World War II and provides a close-up look at the primary members over the years. Writing in Notes, Abram Loft called the chapters focusing on the individual members "absorbing." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "has done an excellent job of limning the complex history" of the quartet.
In Harlem at War: The Black Experience in World War II, Brandt looks at the experience of American black servicemen during World War II. Much of the focus is on the Harlem riot of 1943, which resulted from a black soldier's confrontation with a white policeman. Writing in the Journal of Social History, Beth Bailey found that the author's "story has particular resonance, which he fully understands." Noting that Brandt "is not so much concerned with the riot itself as with a larger portrait of a nation divided," Bailey went on to comment that the author "captures the feel of that era of crisis in a richness of detail and context." Historian contributor Dominic J. Capeci, Jr., wrote that "Brandt writes clearly and directly."
The most deadly fire in U.S. history is the subject of Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903. Brandt provides "a minute-by-minute chronicle" of the fire that killed 602 people, as noted by Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan, who went on to call the book a "superior piece of historical investigative journalism." Gerald A. Danzer, writing in the Michigan Historical Review, commented that the author "has a good ear for relevant history."
Brandt is also the author of two mystery novels with his wife, Yanna Brandt: Land Kills and its follow up A Death in Bulloch Parish. Both books feature former newspaper man Mitch Stevens. In the first book, Stevens becomes involved in the murder of a real estate agent in a small college town targeted by developers. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the authors were "off to a sparkling start" in their first effort together. A Death in Bulloch Parish has Stevens involved in murders stemming from a dead friend's research for a Civil War spy book. Writing in Publishers Weekly a reviewer noted that "this entertaining tale is deftly plotted and well cast."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903, p. 1033.
Historian, spring, 1998, Dominic J. Capeci, Jr., review of Harlem at War: The Black Experience in World War II, p. 616.
Journal of Social History, fall, 1997, Beth Bailey, review of Harlem at War, p. 235; winter, 1997, Beth Bailey, review of Harlem at War, p. 235.
Library Journal, February 1, 1997, Stephen G. Weisner, review of Mr. Tubbs' Civil War, p. 94; February 15, 2003, Grant A. Frederickson, review of Chicago Death Trap, p. 148.
Michigan Historical Review, fall, 2003, Gerald A. Danzer, review of Chicago Death Trap, p. 167.
Notes, June, 1994, Abram Loft, review of Con Brio: Four Russians Called the Budapest String Quartet, p. 1444.
Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Town that Started the Civil War, p. 56; September 6, 1991, review of Land Kills, p. 97; December 6, 1991, review of The Congressman Who Got Away with Murder, p. 66; April 5, 1993, review of Con Brio, p. 54; October 18, 1993, review of A Death in Bullock Parish, p. 66; January 1, 1996, review of Harlem at War, p. 66.