Persico, Joseph E. 1930-
Persico, Joseph E. 1930-
(Joseph Edward Persico)
Born July 19, 1930, in Gloversville, NY; son of Thomas L. (a glove maker) and Blanche (a glove maker) Persico; married Sylvia Lavista (an administrator), May 23, 1959; children: Vanya, Andrea. Education: State University of New York at Albany, B.A., 1952; also attended Columbia University, 1955. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, hiking, tennis, baroque music.
Agent—Clyde Taylor, Curtis Brown Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003.
Writer. Consumer advocate for governor of New York, in Albany, 1956-59; U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC, foreign service officer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1959-62; speechwriter for Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1966-77; writer, 1977—. Also served on the commission that oversaw the design of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1952-55; became lieutenant junior grade.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America, American Film Institute.
Book award from National Intelligence Study Center, 1979, for Piercing the Reich; distinguished alumnus award from State University of New York.
My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg, Viking (New York, NY), 1977, De Capo Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents during World War II, Viking (New York, NY), 1979.
The Spiderweb (novel), Crown (New York, NY), 1979.
The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.
Murrow: An American Original, McGraw (New York, NY), 1988, reprinted as Edward R. Murrow: An American Original, De Capo Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Casey: From the OSS to the CIA, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Colin Powell) My American Journey, Random House (New York, NY), 1995, published as A Soldier's Way: An Autobiography, Hutchinson (London, England), 1995, revised edition, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.
Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to American Heritage.
Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial was adapted as a television Drama; books have been adapted as audio recordings, including My American Journey, Random House (New York, NY), 1995, and Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, Books on Tape, 2004.
Joseph E. Persico worked as a speechwriter for politician Nelson A. Rockefeller for eleven years before becoming a freelance author in 1977. Persico called upon his experiences in the political realm to write The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, an insider's portrait of the former governor of New York who became vice president in 1973. He has also written several books about World War II, including Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents during World War II, Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, and The Spiderweb, the last a novel of suspense about the fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a liberated concentration camp victim.
Critics such as New York Times Book Review contributor Maurice Carroll found The Imperial Rockefeller an important contribution to an understanding of the powerful Republican politician. "Mr. Persico's account confirms what some of us always suspected," claimed Carroll. "Our outsider's impression of the inside events was accurate. Working for Nelson Rockefeller was like being in a royal court." Though Newsweek contributor Charles Kaiser noted that The Imperial Rockefeller is "hardly a comprehensive biography," he nonetheless admitted: "It is the most personal portrait to date of the late governor and Vice President, full of useful insights and punctuated by very funny anecdotes." Chicago Tribune Book World contributor Alden Whitman likewise praised the "finely nuanced and insightful biography," concluding that Persico "is an observant, admiring, critical, thoughtful deviser of a fair, often devastatingly acidic portrait of a powerful, ambitious and often thoughtless person." Whitman added: "Persico's biography is a book of substance. His keen etching of Rockefeller's appeal, his contradictions, is the work of a sensitive observer—and a compassionate one."
Persico's Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage examines how President Franklin D. Roosevelt dealt with his intelligence service during World War II. Roosevelt is credited with creating America's first intelligence agency, the OSS, and running it closely. "This book," wrote William D. Pederson in Library Journal, "keys in on the Machiavellian side of his personality, meshing it with his interest in secrecy." According to Margaret Flanagan in Booklist, Persico's book is "the first comprehensive account of the definitive role that espionage played in FDR's wartime agenda." Philip Bobbitt, writing for the New York Times, found the work to be "entertaining and even inspiring."
Persico's first book, My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg, was published in 1977 and reprinted in 1996. The author, using a combination historical narrative and fictionalized approach, looks at the war from the perspective of the common soldiers who did the actual fighting and the common people who experienced the tragedies of the war. Writing in Armed Forces & Society, Michael T. Meier, commented: "Persico's desire to ‘humanize’ the battle is a worthy one." Casey: From the OSS to the CIA follows the life of William Casey, who had a diverse career from private business and banking to the upper echelons of government, including serving as head the CIA in the 1980's. In a review in Publishers Weekly Genevieve Stuttaford noted that the author "writes a detailed, firmly three-dimensional biography covering each phase of a controversial life." Hollins Critic contributor Wayne G. Reilly, commented that Persico "has written a friendly, but I think generally fair biography."
In Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, Persico delves into the Nazi war crimes trials held in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, with a special emphasis on the trials' ethical and legal questions, which the author believes can be applied to modern war crimes trials. "The conflicts for Mr. Persico go far beyond good and evil, justice and punishment: not only does he imagine himself into the hearts and minds of the defendants, but he insinuates himself into the complex relations between prosecutors and judges as well," wrote James E. Young in a review in the New York Times. Young went on to write that the author's "novelistic re-creation of the Nuremberg trials is a well-wrought example of literary nonfiction." An American Heritage contributor noted that the author "brings to life the trials and the terrible characters who sat in the dock."
Persico collaborated with Colin E. Powell to write the autobiography of the former U.S. Army general and later Secretary of State. Ronald Steel, writing in the New York Times, referred to My American Journey as "an endearing and well-written book." Steel added: "Reading this skillful narrative … you will cheer Mr. Powell on as he shoots up the Army's career pole, accumulating medals and stars all along the way." Thomas L. Dumm, writing in America, commented: "This book is a book for our times, but to learn its deepest lessons we must read it against its mythical intentions. To do otherwise is to take Powell at his word, and to take him at his word means to mismeasure the man himself." Insight on the News contributor Richard N. Perle called the book "a warm, funny, often gripping account of an extraordinary life."
In Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax, Persico looks at the final days of World War I based on numerous written accounts, including official dispatches and letters written by many of the soldiers. The author focuses particularly on the final hours of the war and the mysterious decision by generals on both sides to keep their forces fighting despite their knowledge that a peace agreement was going to be signed. Gilbert Taylor, writing in Booklist, noted that the author "illustrates the struggle by treating its last day as typifying the war." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Persico "ably encapsulates the whole conflict in a highly readable narrative." Writing in History: Review of New Books, John Daley commented: "As a popularized introduction to life in the trenches, … Persico's book is an engaging read."
Persico once told CA: "The creative process remains to me the holiest mystery. The capacity to leave something where nothing existed before is the ultimate glory of the human mind. I write out of no such conscious awareness, but out of unreasoned compulsion. When I do not write, I experience actual mental and emotional anguish. The obsession is chronic and seemingly incurable, a disease, benign, one hopes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, January 27, 1996, Thomas L. Dumm, review of My American Journey, p. 26.
American Heritage, July-August, 1994, review of Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, p. 107.
Armed Forces & Society, winter, 1990, Michael T. Meier, review of My Enemy My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg, p. 318.
Booklist, August, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, p. 2082; September 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax, p. 43.
Chicago Tribune Book World, February 7, 1982, Alden Whitman, review of The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller.
Commonweal, January 12, 1996, Don Wycliff, review of My American Journey, p. 20.
Contemporary Review, February, 1996, Esmond Wright, review of A Soldier's Way: An Autobiography, p. 106.
Entertainment Weekly, September 29, 1995, Gene Lyons, review of My American Journey, p. 53; November 5, 2004, Wook Kim, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, p. 88.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 2005, John Daley, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, p. 112.
History Teacher, May, 1996, Janet D. Stone, review of Nuremberg, pp. 407-408.
Hollins Critic, October, 1991, Wayne G. Reilly, review of Casey: From the OSS to the CIA, p. 12.
Insight on the News, November 13, 1995, Richard N. Perle, review of My American Journey, p. 25.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, p. 794.
Library Journal, December 1, 1976, Herman Hattaway, review of My Enemy, My Brother, p. 2486; October 15, 1978, George H. Siehl, review of Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents during World War II, p. 2526; October 15, 1979, Barbara Conaty, review of The Spiderweb, p. 2239; August, 2001, William D. Pederson, review of Roosevelt's Secret War, p. 132; October 15, 2004, Dale Farris, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, p. 75.
National Review, November 6, 1995, A.J. Bacevich, review of My American Journey, p. 56.
Newsweek, March 15, 1982, Charles Kaiser, review of The Imperial Rockefeller, p. 74.
New York Times, May 29, 1994, James E. Young, review of Neuremberg; September 17, 1995, Ronald Steel, review of My American Journey; October 19, 2001, Philip Bobbitt, "A Detailed Look at Roosevelt, the Intelligence Consumer," p. E32.
New York Times Book Review, March 14, 1982, Maurice Carroll, review of The Imperial Rockefeller, p. 7; October 21, 2001, Thomas Powers, "Who Knew What, and When?"
Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1990, review of Casey, p. 58; October 4, 2004, review of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, p. 78.
Time, March 1, 1982, R.Z. Sheppard, review of The Imperial Rockefeller, p. 82; November 5, 1990, Stefan Kanfer, review of Casey, p. 93.
Beliefnet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (December 12, 2006), Paul O'Donnell, "The Greatest Generation Goes to the Mall," interview with author.