Langguth, A.J. 1933- (Arthur John Langguth)
Langguth, A.J. 1933- (Arthur John Langguth)
Born July 11, 1933, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Arthur John and Doris Elizabeth Langguth. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (cum laude), 1955.
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Shaw traveling fellow, 1955-56; Cowles Publications, reporter in Washington, DC, 1959; Valley Times, North Hollywood, CA, reporter, 1960-63; New York Times, New York, NY, reporter, 1963-65, bureau chief in Saigon, Vietnam, 1965; University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, Los Angeles, professor of journalism. Military service: U.S. Army, 1956-58.
Guggenheim fellow, 1976-77.
Jesus Christs (novel), Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1968.
Wedlock (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1972.
Marksman (novel), Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1974.
Macumba: White and Black Magic in Brazil, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1975.
Hidden Terrors: The Truth about U.S. Police Operations in Latin America, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro, with Six Short Stories Never before Collected, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.
Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor) Norman Corwin's Letters, Barricade Books (New York, NY), 1994.
A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian, and the Struggle for Rome, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Book World, Los Angeles Times Book Review, and other publications.
A.J. Langguth served as the New York Times bureau chief in Saigon during the Vietnam War. He has written several books about war, including Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian, and the Struggle for Rome, Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975, and Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence.
Langguth's Patriots, stated Jody Powell in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "is welcome even for those of us with an established addiction to history. It draws us back to the beginning of ours, an era that seldom receives the attention it deserves." Langguth wrote Patriots because he recognized a need for a popular history of the American Revolution. John A. Garraty portrayed the book in the New York Times Book Review as telling "what happened, who did it, what effects followed, and why people today ought to know about these matters," while Powell declared that it "provided a spicy, toothsome respite" from dry historical writing.
Several reviewers recognized that the book has some flaws; for instance, Powell noted that both George Rogers Clark's expedition against Fort Vincennes, in what is now Indiana, and the battles for the Carolinas during the late 1770s and early 1780s are ignored. They agree, however, that the book's strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Edwards Park stated in the Washington Post Book World: "I find Patriots a delight, and intend to use it the next time I get strung out on a Revolutionary War assignment." Harrison E. Salisbury wrote in Tribune Books: "His narrative reads as though he was there at Valley Forge and Philadelphia. It couldn't have been done better if he had been."
A Noise of War traces the gradual fall of the Roman Empire from a republic to a dictatorship. Beginning in 81 B.C., Rome suffered a number of severe crises that weakened the elected government. To stabilize the country, a number of Caesars were given progressively more power, a process that led finally to the absolute power of the Caesar. "Langguth's concern throughout," noted Roland Green in Booklist, "is readability, and this he certainly achieves."
In Our Vietnam Langguth writes a history of the Vietnam War from its origins in the early 1950s, when the French fought to hold onto their colony of Vietnam, through the involvement of the United States. Along the way, he chronicles the many mistakes, miscalculations, and ironies, on both sides, which prolonged the war's duration and raised the body count. "This book's strength," claimed the reviewer for the Economist, "is the thoroughness of its reporting, on both sides of the war." In similar terms, the critic for Publishers Weekly described the book as "a well-crafted and adroitly balanced account that tells a long, compelling story and sets itself apart from the Vietnam War pack."
Langguth returns to early American history in Union 1812, which critics appreciated for bringing attention to a relatively neglected military and diplomatic episode, the War of 1812. As the book makes clear, the war was about much more than Britain's illegal impressments of American sailors on the high seas; it was primarily about the new country's fate as a sovereign nation and its struggle to maintain control over vast territories and natural resources that Britain was desperate to exploit. Langguth explains the events that led up to the conflict, including the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson's embargo, conflicts with Native American tribes, and the influence of such key players as James Madison, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Tecumseh. He describes the course of the war, and the consequences of the American victory. Douglas King, writing in the Library Journal, praised Union 1812 for its "vivid and richly detailed prose" and expert use of "fascinating and enlightening" primary source material. Pointing out that Langguth does not present an original thesis about the War of 1812 in the book, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly nevertheless concluded that his "panoramic view" and engaging prose brings to life a "decisive event in American military and political history."
Langguth told CA: "In the writing of fiction, every day is a discovery. With nonfiction, I have been surprised by the strength of my feelings for our early history as a nation. Until I began my research some twenty-five years ago, I'm afraid I had the usual blase attitude to America's origins, along with a suspicion of chest-thumping and flag-waving. I have come to see that we do, indeed, have a unique and enviable heritage. I admire many of the nation's early figures—Sam Adams, Albert Gallatin, Dolley Madison—but I revere George Washington."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian, and the Struggle for Rome, p. 1324; August, 1996, Karen Harris, review of A Noise of War, p. 1917; November 15, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence, p. 20.
Christian Century, February 7, 2001, Tran Van Dinh, review of Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975, p. 55.
Economist, December 2, 2000, review of Our Vietnam, p. 6.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2000, review of Our Vietnam; October 1, 2006, review of Union 1812, p. 1001
Library Journal, November 1, 1994, James S. Ruebel, review of A Noise of War, p. 91; June 1, 1996, Peter Josyph, review of A Noise of War, p. 172; November 1, 2006, Douglas King, review of Union 1812, p. 86.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 13, 1988, Jody Powell, review of Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution; November 26, 2000, George C. Herring, review of Our Vietnam.
Military History, March 1, 2007, Kenneh P. Czech, review of Union 1812, p. 69.
New York Times Book Review, April 24, 1988, John A. Garraty, review of Patriots; February 11, 2007, Richard Brookhiser, "Revolution Part II."
Publishers Weekly, June 13, 1994, review of Norman Corwin's Letters, p. 56; October 9, 2000, review of Our Vietnam, p. 82; July 31, 2006, review of Union 1812, p. 62.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007, review of Union 1812.
San Diego Union-Tribune, November 12, 2000, review of Our Vietnam.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 14, 1988, Harrison E. Salisbury, review of Patriots.
Washington Post Book World, April 24, 1988, Edwards Park, review of Patriots.