Shachtman, Tom 1942-
Shachtman, Tom 1942-
Freelance writer, producer, and director for television, 1966—. Assistant chief of the television division, National Geographic Society, 1969-70; The Writers Room (a nonprofit urban writers' colony), president; consultant to Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and New York Zoological Society.
Authors Guild, Writers Guild of America, East, Connecticut Council on the Humanities (trustee), Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area (secretary), Writers Room (trustee).
Shubert fellowship, 1965-66; gold award from Atlanta Film Festival, award from New York International Film Festival, and Golden Gate award from San Francisco Film Festival, all 1972, all for Children of Poverty; gold award from Virgin Islands Film Festival, and award from New York International Film Festival, both 1973, both for Children of Trouble; gold award from Virgin Islands Film Festival, award from New York International Film Festival, and local Emmy awards, all 1975, all for Children of Violence; local Emmy award for Winning Isn't Everything, 1977, and for other works.
The Coming Forth by Day of Osiris Jones (play; adapted from poem by Conrad Aiken), first produced in New York, NY, at Actors Experimental Theater, 1971.
The Day America Crashed, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979.
Edith and Woodrow (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.
The Phony War, 1939-1940, Harper (New York, NY), 1982.
Decade of Shocks: Dallas to Watergate, 1963-1974, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Robert J. Lamphere) The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent's Story, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Harriet Shelare) Video Power: A Complete Guide to Writing, Planning, and Shooting Videos, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Patrick Reynolds) The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco; Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Family and Fortune, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989.
(With Paul G. Stern) Straight to the Top: Beyond Loyalty, Gamesmanship, Mentors, and Other Corporate Myths, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Clive Chajet) Image by Design: From Corporate Vision to Business Reality, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1991.
Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Robert K. Ressler) Whoever Fights Monsters: A Brilliant FBI Detective's Career-long War against Serial Killers, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Robert K. Ressler) Justice Is Served, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.
The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America, Free Press (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Robert K. Ressler) I Have Lived in the Monster: A Report from the Abyss, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.
Around the Block: The Business of a Neighborhood, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1997.
The Most Beautiful Villages of New England, photographs by Len Rubenstein, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1997.
Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1999.
I Seek My Brethren: Ralph Goldman and "The Joint"; Rescue, Relief, and Reconstruction—The Work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, with forewords by David S. Wyman and Teddy Kollek and an introduction by Mikhail Gorbachev, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Edmond D. Pope) Torpedoed: An American Businessman's True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Imprisonment in Russia, and the Battle to Set Him Free, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
(With Leslie Crocker Snyder) Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Shiya Ribowsky) Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's Office, Regan (New York, NY), 2006.
Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of Tom Shachtman's Blog, located at http://tomshachtman.blogspot.com. Author of one-act plays and a ballet. Contributor of articles to newspapers and magazines.
Growing up Masai, photographs by Donn Renn, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1981.
The Birdman of St. Petersburg: Ralph T. Heath, Jr., Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982.
Parade!, photographs by Chuck Saaf, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985.
America's Birthday: The Fourth of July, photographs by Chuck Saaf, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.
Beachmaster: A Story of Daniel au Fond, illustrated by Jamichael Henterly, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.
Wavebender: A Story of Daniel au Fond, illustrated by Jamichael Henterly, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.
The President Builds a House, photographs by Margaret Miller, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
Driftwhistler: A Story of Daniel au Fond, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
The Twenty-First Century, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS-TV), 1966-69.
The Everglades, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC-TV), 1970.
Discovery, ABC-TV, 1970-71.
NBC Reports, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC-TV), 1971.
Broken Treaty at Battle Mountain, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS-TV), 1973.
The Masks We Wear, ABC-TV, 1973.
Rainbow Sundae, ABC-TV, 1973-75.
Sixty Minutes, CBS-TV, 1974.
The Last Frontier, syndicated, 1975.
Decades of Decision, PBS-TV, 1976.
We Are about Caring, Capital Cities stations, 1976.
The Entrepreneurs, syndicated, 1988.
Also author of Children of Poverty (documentary trilogy; contains Children of Poverty, Children of Trouble, and Children of Violence), 1972-75.
Absolute Zero, a two-part documentary based on Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, was broadcast on PBS and BBC4, 2007.
A respected television writer and producer, Tom Shachtman has also published more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York and Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish. "Mostly biographies and chronological narratives," noted David Rouse in Booklist, Shachtman's "works have proven to be both entertaining and informative." Shachtman once told CA: "A style and feeling for audience given me by a dozen years' work in documentaries for television has been carried over into my nonfiction books."
One of Shachtman's early titles, The Day America Crashed, reconstructs events across America on October 24, 1929, the day of the first large stock market crash. By looking at the day's range of activity in such detail, wrote Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times, Shachtman "is able to convey the profound and extensive sense of shock that altered the prevailing psychology of the times, which in turn may have contributed as much to the coming of the Depression as actual economic conditions did."
Throughout his career, Shachtman has teamed with various individuals who have used his writing expertise to help craft their stories. Notable among these people are Robert J. Lamphere, a Cold War-era CIA agent, Patrick Reynolds, a younger-generation member of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco dynasty, and Robert K. Ressler, the FBI agent who coined the term "serial killer" and helped to track down some of the notorious murderers himself. Lamphere's tale, The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent's Story, was described as "interesting and highly readable" by New Republic contributor Ronald Radosh. The critic concluded that the book "is an eye-opener. [Lamphere] has laid bare the antecedents of today's spy cases and showed something of the scope and strength of Soviet espionage."
Shachtman completed three books with Ressler, including I Have Lived in the Monster: A Report from the Abyss. Citing the work for its "crisp and well paced" writing, Christine A. Moesch noted in Library Journal: "Especially harrowing are [Ressler's] interviews with John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer. An absolutely chilling look at the evil that is the mind of a serial killer." Booklist correspondent Mike Tribby called I Have Lived in the Monster "well written [and] scary without quite being gruesome," adding that the book "would do any true-crime collection proud." In a Publishers Weekly review of the Shachtman-Ressler collaboration Whoever Fights Monsters: A Brilliant FBI Detective's Career-long War against Serial Killers, a critic stated: "[Ressler's] quest—catching and understanding criminals—absorbs and unsettles the reader, placing true crime in the real world." The Ressler-Shachtman books have sold several million copies in Japan and throughout the world in translation.
The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco; Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Family and Fortune grew out of a collaboration between Shachtman and Patrick Reynolds, a grandson of the founder of the R.J. Reynolds empire. The book details numerous cancer deaths and scandals—including an unsolved shooting—that have marked the Reynolds family since the turn of the century. "Many in the Reynolds clan probably will hope that The Gilded Leaf disappears in a puff of cigarette smoke," suggested Andrea Cooper in the New York Times Book Review. Cooper went on to call The Gilded Leaf "a courageous and worthwhile book. More than an entertainment, it documents the danger of parents who confuse money with love."
A native of New York City, Shachtman has written about Manhattan in many documentaries and in two of his books, Skyscraper Dreams and Around the Block: The Business of a Neighborhood. Skyscraper Dreams profiles the entrepreneurs who shaped Manhattan's skyline and a history of the buildings themselves. "Mr. Shachtman has done an enormous amount of research, and the story of how Manhattan was built is a fascinating one," wrote Jeff Kisseloff in the New York Times Book Review. Kisseloff felt that Shachtman tended to portray the real estate barons in an overly positive light. "Mr. Shachtman wants us to like the subjects of his book," the critic concluded. "But more often than not the members of the great real estate dynasties come off as remarkably calculating and self-centered." Larry Light in Business Week called the book "a fascinating history, showing how the city has been molded by the edifice complexes of risk-takers…. Shachtman ably sketches the rise and fall of these family empires…. The feuds of these real estate kingpins are the stuff of grand comedy … wonderful fun."
Around the Block sheds light on the business, educational, and residential aspects of life in one square block area of downtown New York, where the businesses range from Cahners Publishing Company to an independent video rental store and a plumbing supply shop. In the Economist, a reviewer deemed the work "the sort of business book that is published too rarely…. Its subject goes to the heart of modern American business—and in the process tells you more about social conflicts, immigration, education, and, indeed, America itself than countless loftier works." The reviewer went on to call Around the Block a "near classic" and "one of the best descriptions of American business in microcosm to come out of the 1990s." A reviewer for the New Yorker wrote that the book is "a grand idea, splendidly executed."
Shachtman's The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America examines the debasement of America's verbal currency, citing television, popular music, and even political debate as areas in which language has suffered severe devaluation. In the National Review, Tracy Lee Simmons maintained: "Mr. Shachtman argues here [that] the primacy of the word in American culture has been replaced by the reign of the visual image, which has diverted even the more judicious among us from attending to words and their meanings." The critic added: "Mr. Shachtman guesses that, in our rush from a word-guided world, we are becoming a culture fueled by emotion rather than thought." New York Times columnist Michiko Kakutani faulted the book for its "pretentious assertions, condescending remarks and out-and-out lapses of logic," but she nevertheless observed that Shachtman "raises many valid questions and makes a few astute observations." "The book's piece de resistance is Mr. Shachtman's sardonic tracing of the decline and fall of TV news, and how it has destroyed eloquence…. He coins a sharp phrase when he calls for a ‘revolt of the articulate masses,’" wrote Florence King for the Wall Street Journal.
Shachtman delves into the realm of science in his book Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold. The book charts the history of scientific research into cooling, from the Middle Ages to the present, offering brief biographies of some of the important inventors in the field of temperature measurement, refrigeration, and supercooling. According to Simon Singh in the New York Times Book Review, the work "analyzes the social impact of the chill factor, explains the science of cold and tells the curious tales behind inventions like the thermometer, the fridge and the thermos flask." The critic continued: "Shachtman, who has written books about a wide variety of subjects, recounts the history of cold with passion and clarity…. Shachtman argues that the science of cold, which has so much influenced [the twentieth] century, will continue to revolutionize technology well into the next." To quote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Shachtman's book comes alive in his highly technical descriptions of the unique and wondrous properties of materials at only a few degrees above absolute zero." And in Booklist, Gilbert Taylor described the title as "an absorbing account to chill out with." Mark Prendergrast for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described Absolute Zero as "masterfully told. In many ways an absolute delight, chock-full of quirky characters questing for ever-lower temperatures and discovering fundamental properties of matter along the way. Shachtman has achieved an enormous feat, combining science, biography, and analysis into a compelling narrative full of explosions, obsessed experimentalists and unexpected revelations delivered from a region so cold that no human could survive a single second there."
In Terrors and Marvels: How Science and Technology Changed the Character and Outcome of World War II, Shachtman analyzes the development of military weapons during the conflict and discusses the complex relationship between scientists, politicians, and military officials. According to School Library Journal reviewer Pam Johnson, "Shachtman tells the story through the men and women, both Allied and Axis, who provided the scientific answers for the war," and a critic in Publishers Weekly stated that the author "dramatically captures the breakneck pace of research and the charged atmosphere of the WWII lab." Though Allan A. Millett, writing in the Naval College War Review, remarked that Terrors and Marvels lacks a "compelling theme or interpretive core," he noted that Shachtman "is interesting when identifying personalities and providing biographical material to enliven the narrative. He also correctly treats most of the significant scientific-technical developments of the war: the exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum for command and control, navigation, and target acquisition; guidance systems for such ordnance as acoustic torpedoes and proximity-fused shells; nuclear weapons; signals intelligence; jet propulsion; and chemical and biological warfare." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews described the work as "a comprehensive analysis of how mobilization and management of scientists—and their research and resultant technologies—produced an array of weapons for the Allies that ranged from horrific to unbelievable."
More than four hundred individuals were interviewed over a six-year period for Rumspringa, a "near-unprecedented glimpse into the inner lives of Amish society," wrote Library Journal critic Graham Christian. An accepted rite of social passage that begins at age sixteen, rumspringa, which means "running around," denotes a period of time when Amish youth may venture from their community and enter mainstream culture while deciding whether to be baptized into the church. They often experiment with alcohol, sex, and drugs, and they engage in normally forbidden activities, such as driving cars and using cell phones. "Though Shachtman ably records rumspringa's excesses in both projects, he aims to provide a sympathetic portrait of confused adolescents faced with a decision between religious order and worldly freedom," noted Aaron Mesh in the Wilson Quarterly. "The reporting is anecdotal and the pace often slack, but the conversations do reveal subjects who find their liberty unsettling." Indeed, studies show that more than eighty percent of Amish adolescents eventually choose to remain with the order. According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, Shachtman "is a sensitive and nimble chronicler of Amish teens, devoting ample space to allowing them to tell their stories in their own words," and June Sawyers, reviewing the work in Booklist, similarly noted that the author provides "not only absorbing reading but also touching portraits of teenagers on the cusp of adulthood."
In addition to his numerous adult books, Shachtman has written books for children. In Beachmaster: A Story of Daniel au Fond, Wavebender: A Story of Daniel au Fond, and Driftwhistler: A Story of Daniel au Fond, Shachtman offers realistic adventures about an adolescent sea lion and his companions. However, the author does allow the sea lion to communicate in speech and thought that is recognizable to young readers. In a New York Times Book Review piece on Beachmaster, Meg Wolitzer commended Shachtman for making "a clear moral distinction between the violence done to sea creatures by man and the violent struggles among sea creatures that play a large part of life in the ocean." Wolitzer concluded: "Readers will finish the novel with an understanding of the crucial difference between sport and survival. Like the ocean itself, the story is full of life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 12, 1999, Mark Prendergrast, review of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold.
Booklist, May 15, 1992, Ray Olson, review of Whoever Fights Monsters: A Brilliant FBI Detective's Career-long War against Serial Killers, p. 1650; June 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America, p. 1703; May 1, 1997, Mike Tribby, review of I Have Lived in the Monster: A Report from the Abyss, p. 1466; September 15, 1997, David Rouse, review of Around the Block: The Business of a Neighborhood, p. 188; November 1, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, p. 495; April 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Terrors and Marvels: How Science and Technology Changed the Character and Outcome of World War II, p. 1295; April 1, 2006, June Sawyers, review of Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, p. 7.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 1, 1981, review of Growing up Masai, p. 180; April 1, 1986, review of America's Birthday: The Fourth of July, p. 157.
Business Week, October 7, 1991, Larry Light, review of Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York, p. 18.
Canadian Banker, May 1, 1992, Alanna Little, review of Image by Design: From Corporate Vision to Business Reality, p. 65.
Christian Century, May 20, 1981, review of Edith and Woodrow, p. 597; January 25, 1984, Lowell D. Streiker, review of Decade of Shocks: Dallas to Watergate, 1963-1974, p. 84.
Commentary, November, 1986, Harvey Klehr, review of The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent's Story, p. 83.
Economist, December 13, 1997, review of Around the Block, p. S8.
Foreign Affairs, winter, 1986, Gaddis Smith, review of The FBI-KGB War, p. 400.
Horn Book, June 1, 1981, Nancy D. Lyhne, review of Growing up Masai, p. 320; January 1, 1986, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Parade!, p. 72; May 1, 1986, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of America's Birthday, p. 336.
Journal of American History, September, 1987, Donal J. Sexton, review of The FBI-KGB War, p. 558.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2001, review of Torpedoed: An American Businessman's True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Imprisonment in Russia, and the Battle to Set Him Free, p. 1471; March 15, 2002, review of Terrors and Marvels, p. 393; March 15, 2006, review of Rumspringa, p. 281.
Library Journal, February 15, 1981, review of Edith and Woodrow, p. 445; May 15, 1982, J.O. Baylen, review of The Phony War, 1939-1940, p. 993; November 15, 1983, review of Decade of Shocks, p. 2158; June 1, 1986, James R. Kuhlman, review of The FBI-KGB War, p. 128; April 1, 1989, David M. Turkalo, p. 97; May 15, 1991, Susan Awe, review of Image by Design, p. 90; July, 1991, Richard Drezen, review of Skyscraper Dreams, p. 111; June 1, 1992, Robert Hodder, review of Whoever Fights Monsters, p. 150; May 15, 1997, Christine A. Moesch, review of I Have Lived in the Monster, p. 87; September 15, 1997, Steven J. Mayover, review of Around the Block, p. 84; January 1, 1998, Linda M. Kaufmann, review of The Most Beautiful Villages of New England, p. 123; April 15, 2002, James Olson, review of Terrors and Marvels, p. 122; September 1, 2002, Harry Charles, review of Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, p. 195; March 1, 2006, Graham Christian, review of Rumspringa, p. 96.
National Review, February 12, 1996, Tracy Lee Simmons, review of The Inarticulate Society, p. 55.
Naval War College Review, January 1, 2003, Allan A. Millett, review of Terrors and Marvels, p. 181.
New Republic, September 8, 1986, Ronald Radosh, review of The FBI-KGB War, p. 38.
New Yorker, December 1, 1997, review of Around the Block.
New York Law Journal Magazine, December 1, 2002, David Levering Lewis, review of Twenty-five to Life, p. 50.
New York Times, March 26, 1979, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Day America Crashed, p. C18; July 14, 1995, Michiko Kakutani, review of The Inarticulate Society, p. B8; December 1, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Most Beautiful Villages of New England, p. B6.
New York Times Book Review, March 8, 1981, Susan Jacoby, review of Edith and Woodrow, p. 7; April 26, 1981, review of Growing up Masai, p. 56; April 16, 1989, Meg Wolitzer, review of Beachmaster: A Story of Daniel au Fond, p. 26; August 20, 1989, Andrea Cooper, review of The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco; Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Family and Fortune, p. 21; August 25, 1991, Jeff Kisseloff, review of Skyscraper Dreams, p. 15; November 30, 1997, David Gonzalez, review of Around the Block, p. 19; December 12, 1999, Simon Singh, "Cool! The Science of Cold Transformed Life in the 20th Century," review of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, February 13, 1981, review of Edith and Woodrow, p. 84; April 30, 1982, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Phony War, 1939-1940, p. 52; October 7, 1983, review of Decade of Shocks, p. 81; March 10, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Gilded Leaf, p. 70; July 28, 1989, Kimberly Olson Fakih, review of The President Builds a House, p. 221; March 9, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Straight to the Top: Beyond Loyalty, Gamesmanship, Mentors, and Other Corporate Myths, p. 55; March 8, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Image by Design, p. 62; May 31, 1991, review of Skyscraper Dreams, p. 65; March 30, 1992, review of Whoever Fights Monsters, p. 93; May 29, 1995, review of The Inarticulate Society, p. 76; July 7, 1997, review of The Most Beautiful Villages of New England, p. 62; December 6, 1999, review of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, p. 67; December 10, 2001, review of I Seek My Brethren: Ralph Goldman and "The Joint"; Rescue, Relief, and Reconstruction—The Work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, p. 66; April 22, 2002, review of Terrors and Marvels, p. 59; July 29, 2002, review of Twenty-five to Life, p. 63; March 13, 2006, review of Rumspringa, p. 60.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2002, review of I Seek My Brethren, p. 128.
School Library Journal, May, 1981, Nancy J. Schmidt, review of Growing up Masai, p. 69; September, 1981, Ellen D. Warwick, review of Growing up Masai, p. 41; April, 1982, review of The Birdman of St. Petersburg, p. 76; April 15, 1982, review of The Birdman of St. Petersburg, p. 76; November, 1985, Elaine E. Knight, review of Parade!, p. 91; June, 1988, Joanne Troutner, review of Video Power: A Complete Guide to Writing, Planning, and Shooting Videos, p. 112; December, 1988, Ruth M. McConnell, review of Beachmaster, p. 112; September, 1989, Jeanette Larson, review of The President Builds a House, p. 268; February, 1992, Patricia Manning, review of Driftwhistler: A Story of Daniel au Fond, p. 89; October, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Terrors and Marvels, p. 197; August, 2006, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Rumspringa, p. 146.
Trademark Reporter, May 1, 1993, review of Image by Design, p. 431.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August 1, 1982, review of The Birdman of St. Petersburg: Ralph T. Heath, Jr., p. 48; October 1, 1989, review of The President Builds a House, p. 239.
Wall Street Journal, July 31, 1995, Florence King, review of The Inarticulate Society, p. A12.
Wilson Quarterly, September 22, 2006, Aaron Mesh, "Party til the Cows Come Home," p. 107.
Tom Shachtman Home Page,http://www.tomshachtman.com (June 1, 2007).
"Shachtman, Tom 1942-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/shachtman-tom-1942
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