D'Antonio, Michael 1955–
D'Antonio, Michael 1955–
D'Antonio, Michael 1955–
PERSONAL: Born May 11, 1955, in Portsmouth, NH; son of Albert (a construction executive) and Patricia (a homemaker) D'Antonio; married Toni Raiten (a psychotherapist), June 3, 1978; children: Elizabeth Allyn, Amy Margaret. Education: University of New Hampshire, B.A., 1977. Politics: Independent. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Home—Farmingville, NY.
CAREER: Journalist and writer. Dover Democrat, Dover, NH, reporter, 1976–77; Portland Press Herald, Portland, ME, reporter, 1977–78, correspondent in Washington, DC, 1978–83; Newsday, New York, NY, writer, 1983–90.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize for journalism (with others), 1984, for Newsday's coverage of the Baby Jane Doe case; First Amendment Award, Sigma Delta Chi, 1986; Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship, 1987; Humanitas Prize, 2004, for Showtime drama Crown Heights.
Fall From Grace: The Failed Crusade of the Christian Right, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
Heaven on Earth: Dispatches From America's Spiritual Frontier, Crown (New York, NY), 1992.
Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal, foreword by Stewart Udall, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Mike Magee) The Best Medicine: Doctors, Patients, and the Covenant of Caring, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Tin Cup Dreams: A Long Shot Makes it on the PGA Tour, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Ralph Acampora) The Fourth Mega-Market, Now Through 2011: How Three Earlier Bull Markets Explain the Present and Predict the Future, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Andrew Spielman) Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
Tour '72: Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino; The Story of One Great Season, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Bruce McNall) Fun While It Lasted: My Rise and Fall in the Land of Fame and Fortune, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
The State Boys Rebellion, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael D'Antonio is a former journalist who covered religion for Newsday before he began writing books full-time in 1990. His first work, Fall From Grace: The Failed Crusade of the Christian Right, documents the rise of Christian conservatism as a force in U.S. politics in the late twentieth century. D'Antonio structures the book around an examination of television evangelist Pat Robertson's failed bid for the Republican party's presidential nomination in 1988. In addition to assessing the Robertson candidacy, D'Antonio provides an overview of Christian conservatism and its development, particularly as it occurred in the American South and Southwest. D'Antonio also charts the exploits of other noted—and notorious—television evangelists, including Jimmy Swaggart, a preacher who was photographed consorting with a prostitute, and Jim Bakker, a church leader accused of sexual misconduct and, with his wife, Tammy Fay, convicted of financial impropriety. In his Washington Post review of Fall From Grace, Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., contended that D'Antonio's skepticism sometimes prohibits profound reflection on the subject, but the reviewer added that the book is nonetheless "good reporting."
In his next book, Heaven on Earth: Dispatches From America's Spiritual Frontier, D'Antonio reflects on the ethics and values held by people involved in the New Age movement, which stresses unconventional means of acquiring such personal things as improved health and religious fulfillment. The volume includes accounts of D'Antonio's meetings with faith healers, clairvoyants, and self-professed spiritual business operators. Reviewers noted that some of the book's subjects appear to be mere opportunists and con artists. Nonetheless, John Doyle, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, found Heaven on Earth a useful "overview" of New Age culture.
Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal is D'Antonio's history of the 600-plus-acre facility and its nine reactors built in the state of Washington during World War II to supply plutonium for the Manhattan Project. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "sobering report." Journalists, whistle-blowers, and activists provided D'Antonio with many of the details regarding the radiation-related illnesses within both human and animal populations in the region surrounding Hanford, making it, the author writes, "arguably the most polluted place in the western world." Diseases attributed to Hanford include cancers, birth defects, and miscarriages.
In his book, D'Antonio introduces to readers the individuals who revealed the truth about Hanford: farmer Tom Bailie; reporter Karen Dorn Steele; the Reverend William Houff, a former civil rights activist who helped found the Hanford Education Action League (HEAL), a citizen action group that has spread the word about Hanford; and Casey Ruud, an inspector who blew the whistle on violations. Nation contributor Gayle Greene wrote that Ruud "finds radioactive waste dumped in unmarked pits where the desert winds can carry it off and learns that the system for tracking plutonium has broken down—he finds the stuff scattered about the plant with no record of where it comes from or is going in a way that makes Hanford a terrorist's picnic. He encounters macho disregard of safety on the part of workers and engineers, a devil-may-care attitude so pervasive as to be termed 'Hanfordization', and such massive indifference on the part of management that he is driven, finally, to turn to the press." Meanwhile, reporter Steele researched forty years of industry history to discover, among other things, that the Atomic Energy Commission cut funding to Dr. Thomas Mancuso when his studies reflected high levels of cancer associated with Hanford. HEAL has obtained thousands of pages of documents under the Freedom of Information Act. These show that in 1949, in an experiment named Green Run, Hanford purposely discharged 5,050 curies of radioactive iodine (some estimates say 7,800 curies). In comparison, the Three Mile Island accident involved the release of fifteen curies. It is estimated that between 1945 and 1947, people living near Hanford may have ingested twice the number of rads (2,900) as were contained in the Chernobyl cloud.
In the interest of public relations, the government refused to allow warnings to go out to the people about possible health risks, including those from the water of the Columbia River. It also refused to conduct cancer studies. In 1952, when a doctor wrote an autopsy report citing radiation burns as a cause of death, he was pressured to change his report. When he refused, another doctor was hired to submit the report, which was then used to deny compensation to the man's widow. "This subterfuge goes back to World War II," maintained Greene. "The bomb was dropped not so much to save American lives, since the Japanese were suing for peace, but because so much had been invested in building it." By 1993 more than 4,000 people had become plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the government's contractors at Hanford, including General Electric, DuPont, and Rockwell. The Department of Energy spent millions defending these corporations.
Hanford brought jobs to Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco, and local workers performed their tasks with a sense of patriotism under the threat of the Cold War scare. In fact, Russia's capabilities were greatly exaggerated to justify defense expenditures. In Hanford local people have been left with a cleanup operation expected to cost more than one billion dollars a year, with total costs estimated to reach one trillion dollars or more. Greene pointed out that more than 1,400 dump sites have since been discovered, and more than 440 billion gallons of radioactive and chemical liquids are estimated to have been discharged into the ground—liquids containing enough plutonium to build twenty-four nuclear weapons. Sixty-seven of the 177 known buried waste tanks are "leakers." "But the human toll," wrote Greene in his Nation article, "the toll in terms of damaged health and lost and deformed babies, is incalculable. The people of the Tri-Cities needn't have feared for their jobs, only for their lives."
Tin Cup Dreams: A Long Shot Makes It on the PGA Tour is D'Antonio's account of a season with Estaban Toledo as he makes it through the qualifying event and retains his right to play for another year. Toledo came from a poor background in Mexico, had been a boxer, then a caddy before turning pro. The self-taught golfer qualified in 1993 but lost his Tour card when he didn't meet the standards to continue. In November 1997 he qualified again, played in thirty tournaments, and exceeded the prize money requirement (230,000 dollars) that permitted him to hold his card for another season. D'Antonio describes Toledo's determination, his grueling practice schedule, and his doubts, some sparked by such racist incidents as being denied access to player areas because he is Mexican.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Tin Cup Dreams "a superb effort." The reviewer added: "D'Antonio does a remarkable job of unfolding Toledo's golf saga with drama and humor and provides a fresh perspective on an old game." "Readers also get a fascinating look at the PGA not shown on TV," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Overall, D'Antonio comes in at one under." Booklist contributor Bill Ott added that "Toledo's triumph makes a genuinely inspiring sports story."
D'Antonio collaborated with mosquito expert Andrew Spielman to write Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe. The authors provide an in-depth view of the insect that passes on malaria and still kills millions of people each year. The authors discuss everything from the mosquito's life cycle to how it has influenced human history over the years, such as the many times it has affected the outcomes of battles and military campaigns, including those conducted by Alexander the Great and Sir Francis Drake. Michael Barrett, writing in the New Statesman, commented that the authors "have done a good job." In a review in Booklist, David Pitt called it "an informative, entertaining, and sometimes skin-crawly book."
Tour '72: Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino; The Story of One Great Season recounts the 1972 professional golf tour and the competition among four of golf's greatest players at the time: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. The author provides information on the very different backgrounds of each of these golfers and details the biggest matches of the year, including the Master's Tournament and the British Open. "A passionate, informed guide to the bellwether season that now can be seen as a turning point for golf, on the road out of the sporting shadows to become, remarkably, a glamour game," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly commented that the author's "narrative is a remarkably fresh story." John Maxymuk, writing in the Library Journal, referred to Tour '72 as "a very well written backstage view of the pro golf tour."
D'Antonio collaborated with Bruce McNall to tell the story of McNall's downward spiral among Hollywood players in the book Fun While It Lasted: My Rise and Fall in the Land of Fame and Fortune. Starting out as a rare coin dealer, McNall eventually begins investing in movies, horses, and even a hockey team along with the Hollywood elite in an effort to both make more money and hobnob with the rich and famous. When his investments start to fail, he turns to fraud and ends up in prison. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that McCall's tale is "sufficiently dramatic." Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, noted: "For readers who enjoy insider tales of financial skulduggery."
The State Boys Rebellion delves into the incarceration during the middle of the twentieth century of numerous young people who were mentally retarded. The author clearly details the policy of institutionalizing children with low IQ's in places where abuse was common. He focuses on the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded and an uprising staged by boys who believed that they did not deserve to be institutionalized. Their 1957 rebellion helped lead to a new awareness and understanding of the situation that eventually resulted in the downfall of a system that wrongly institutionalized children throughout the United States. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "deftly combines detailed archival research and extensive personal interviews to paint a richly nuanced picture." Antoinette Brinkman, writing in the Library Journal, referred to the book as "a worthwhile contribution to the literature that illuminates the darker side of American social history."
D'Antonio turns his focus to a chocolate baron in Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. The biography recounts the life of the man who made chocolate affordable for the masses and details his efforts to create a self-sustaining, Utopian community for his workers in Hershey, Pennsylvania. George Cohen, writing in Booklist, called the book "a glowing tribute to the man and his benevolence." In a review in the School Library Journal, Starr E. Smith noted D'Antonio's "balanced viewpoint, smooth writing, and succinct treatment" of Hershey. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Wide-ranging social history underpins a well-told, balanced account of the candy man, his business and his milieu."
D'Antonio once told CA: "I am interested in journalism as current history. Rather than focus on the famous, I prefer to illuminate the lives of everyday people who struggle with momentous issues. I am fascinated by the democratic process and inspired by citizens who become part of the process and affect events in meaningful ways. This may be traced to my childhood on a small island off the New Hampshire coast where six hundred residents used town meetings to come together and determine their own futures."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
D'Antonio, Michael, Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
McNall, Bruce, and Michael D'Antonio, Fun While It Lasted: My Rise and Fall in the Land of Fame and Fortune, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
Atlantic Monthly, March, 1994, Thomas Powers, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 119.
Biography, winter, 2006, Benjamin Cheever, review of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, p. 221.
Booklist, October 1, 1999, William Beatty, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Best Medicine: Doctors, Patients, and the Covenant of Caring, p. 332; March 1, 2000, Bill Ott, review of Tin Cup Dreams: A Long Shot Makes It on the PGA Tour, p. 1187; July, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Fun While it Lasted, p. 1852; April 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of The State Boys Rebellion, p. 1335; December 1, 2005, George Cohen, review of Hershey, p. 11.
British Medical Journal, August 4, 2001, David Brewster, review of Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe, p. 289.
Business and Society Review, spring, 1994, Erik R. Pages, review of Atomic Harvest, pp. 77-78.
Business Week, December 6, 1993, William Glasgall, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 26.
Chemical & Engineering News, March 21, 1994, Deborah L. Illman, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 26.
Choice, April, 1994, J.G. Morse, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 1313.
Church History, December, 1993, David Edwin Harrell Jr., review of Fall From Grace: The Failed Crusade of the Christian Right, p. 583.
East West Natural Health, September-October, 1992, Bill Thompson, review of Heaven on Earth: Dispatches From America's Spiritual Frontier, p. 130.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 18, 1992, John Doyle, review of Heaven on Earth, p. C6.
Issues in Science and Technology, spring, 1994, Steven M. Blush, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 90.
Journal of the American Medical Association, August 3, 1994, John W. Gofman, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 408.
Journal of American Culture, fall, 1994, Marshall W. Fishwick, review of Fall From Grace, p. 92.
Journal of the West, October, 1994, Stephen H. Norwood, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 90.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2000, review of Tin Cup Dreams, p. 223; March 1, 2002, review of Tour '72: Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino; The Story of One Great Season, p. 304; March 15, 2004, review of The State Boys Rebellion, p. 255; November 15, 2005, review of Hershey, p. 1219.
Library Journal, October 15, 1993, Randy Dykhuis, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 84; April 1, 2002, John Maxymuk, review of Tour '72, p. 116; June 15, 2003, Patrick J. Brunet, review of Fun While It Lasted, p. 81; May 1, 2004, Antoinette Brinkman, review of The State Boys Rebellion, p. 130; December 1, 2005, Robert Flatley, review of Hershey, p. 140.
Nation, February 28, 1994, Gayle Greene, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 277.
New Statesman, July 30, 2001, Michael Barrett, review of Mosquitos, p. 41.
New Yorker, January 24, 1994, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 95.
Psychology Today, May-June, 2004, review of The State Boys Rebellion, p. 82.
Publishers Weekly, October 11, 1993, review of Atomic Harvest, p. 77; February 14, 2000, review of Tin Cup Dreams, p. 188; April 8, 2002, review of Tour '72, p. 218; May 19, 2003, review of Fun While it Lasted, p. 61; March 29, 2004, review of The State Boys Rebellion, p. 48.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 2002, Lisa Sattenspiel, review of Mosquito, p. 461.
School Library Journal, May, 2006, Starr E. Smith, review of Hershey, p. 167.
Science, September 21, 2001. John Farley, review of Mosquito, p. 2211.
Sociology of Religion, fall, 1993, John P. Ferre, review of Fall From Grace, p. 332.
Spectator, July 14, 2001, Tony Gould, review of Mosquito, p. 34.
Washington Post, February 1, 1990, Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., review of Fall From Grace.
World Watch, March, 2002, Anne Platt McGinn, review of Mosquito, p. 35.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 4, 2006), David Loftus, review of Mosquito.
Brothers Judd, http://www.brothersjudd.com/ (October 5, 2006), review of Mosquito.
University of New Hampshire Web site, http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/ (October 5, 2006), Anne Downey, review of The State Boys Rebellion.