Allen, Thomas B. 1929–

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Allen, Thomas B. 1929–

(Thomas Benton Allen, Tom Allen)

Personal

Born March 20, 1929, in Bridgeport, CT; son of Walter Leo (a salesman) and Elizabeth Allen; married Florence "Scottie" MacBride (a potter), June 5, 1950; children: Christopher, Constance, Roger. Education: Attended Fairfield University, 1947-49; University of Bridgeport, B.A. (journalism), 1955. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unitarian Universalist.

Addresses

Home and office—Bethesda, MD. Agent—Carl Brandt, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Journalist and author. Bridgeport Herald, Bridgeport, CT, reporter, 1946-52, 1953-63; New York Daily News, New York, NY, feature writer, 1956-63; Chilton Book Co., Philadelphia, PA, managing editor for trade books, 1963-65; National Geographic Book Service, Washington, DC, editor, beginning 1965, associate chief editor, 1974-81; freelance writer, 1981—. Montgomery College, instructor in freshman English, 1969-70; instructor at Writers Center, Bethesda, MD. Consultant and onscreen speaker for Documedia series Secrets of War, History Channel. Military service: U.S. Navy, journalist, 1952-53.

Member

Authors Guild, National Press Club, Bethesda Writer's Center (founder and former member of board of directors).

Awards, Honors

Notable Book of the Year designation, New York Times, 1981, for Rickover; New York Public Library Reference Book of the Year selection, 1991, for World War II: America at War 1941-1945; Eller Prize in Naval History (with Norman Polmar), 1995, for article in Naval Institute Proceedings; Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 2001, for Remember Pearl Harbor; Gold Award, Art Directors' Club, 2002, for interactive Web feature on Pearl Harbor; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing citation.

Writings

(Under name Tom Allen; with Harold W. McCormick and William E. Young) Shadows in the Sea: The Sharks, Skates, and Rays, Chilton (Radnor, PA), 1963, new edition, Lyons & Burford (Branford, CT), 1996.

The Quest: A Report on Extraterrestrial Life, Chilton (Philadelphia, PA), 1965.

(Editor and contributor) Vacationland U.S.A., National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1970.

(With others) Living in Washington: A Moving Experience, Westover (Richmond, VA), 1972.

(Editor) The Marvels of Animal Behavior, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1972.

The Last Inmate (novel), Charterhouse (New York, NY), 1973.

Vanishing Wildlife of North America, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1974.

(Editor and contributor) We Americans: Celebrating a Nation, Its People, and Its Past, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1975, millennium edition edited with Charles O. Hyman, 1999.

A Short Life (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.

(Editor and contributor) Wild Animals of North America, National Wildlife Society (Washington, DC), 1979.

(Editor and contributor) Images of the World, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1981.

(Coauthor) America's Wildlife Sampler, National Wildlife Federation (Vienna, VA), 1982.

(With Norman Polmar) Rickover: Controversy and Genius (biography), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982, reprinted, Potomac Books (Washington, DC), 2007.

(With Caroline Hottenstein) Field Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1983.

(With Karen Jensen and Philip Kopper) Earth's Amazing Animals, National Wildlife Federation (Washington, DC), 1983.

(With Norman Polmar) Ship of Gold (novel), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

War Games: The Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers Rehearsing World War III Today, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1987.

Guardian of the Wild: The Story of the National Wildlife Federation, 1936-1986, University of Indiana Press (Bloomington, IN), 1987.

(Editor) America's Hidden Wilderness, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1988.

(With Norman Polmar) Merchants of Treason: America's Secrets for Sale, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Bob Devine and Donald Dale Jackson) Treasures of the Tide, National Wildlife Federation (Washington, DC), 1990.

(With Norman Polmar) World War II: Americans at War, 1941-1945, Random House (New York, NY), 1991, revised as World War II: The Encyclopedia of the War Years, 1941-1945, 1996.

(With Norman Polmar and F. Clifton Berry) CNN: War in the Gulf, Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1991.

The Blue and the Gray, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1992.

(With William S. Cohen) Murder in the Senate, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.

CNN Guide to the 1992 Election: Change vs. Trust, Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1992.

Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993, revised edition, Iuniverse. com, 1999.

Offerings at the Wall: Artifacts from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1995.

(With Norman Polmar) Code-Name: Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan—and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995, published as Why Truman Dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan: Code Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan, Ross & Perry (Washington, DC), 2001.

(With Norman Polmar) Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage, Random House (New York, NY), 1997, revised and updated edition published as The Encyclopedia of Espionage, Gramercy (New York, NY), 1998, second edition, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

Animals of Africa, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates (New York, NY), 1997.

America from Space, Firefly Books (Buffalo, NY), 1998.

The Shark Almanac: A Fully Illustrated Natural History of Sharks, Skates, and Rays, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 1999.

The Washington Monument: It Stands for All, Discovery Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Shark Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Remember Pearl Harbor: American and Japanese Survivors Tell Their Stories, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.

(Editor, with T.J. Cornell) War and Games, Boydell (Rochester, NY), 2002.

(With Paul Dickson) The Bonus Army: An American Epic, Walker (New York, NY), 2004.

George Washington, Spymaster: How America Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War, illustrated by Cheryl Harness, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2004.

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union during the Civil War, illustrated by Carla Bauer, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2006.

Remember Valley Forge: Patriots, Tories, and Redcoats Tell Their Stories, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2007.

Declassified: Fifty Top Secret Documents That Change History, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2008.

(With son, Roger MacBride Allen) Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War: How the North Used the Ironclads, Telegraph, Railroads, High-powered Weapons, and More to Win the Civil War, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2009.

Associate editor and contributor to Guide to U.S. National Parks, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1990. Contributor to books published by National Geographic Society, including Greece and Rome: Builders of Our World, 1968, The Age of Chivalry, 1969, Wilderness U.S.A., 1972, The World of the American Indian, 1974, Our Continent, 1976, Visiting Our Past, 1977, Ancient Egypt, 1978, Romance of the Sea, 1980, Journey to China, 1982, and England and Ireland, 1985.

Contributing editor to periodicals, including Seapower and National Geographic. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Magazine, American History, Military History Quarterly, Traveller, Washington Post, Naval Institute Proceedings, Smithsonian, Washingtonian, U.S. Naval Proceedings, Popular Science Annual, Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News, and Syndicate and Field Enterprises Syndicate. Author of film scripts for National Geographic Educational Film Division. Contributor to Web sites, including those operated by National Geographic, Discovery, Kodak, National Portrait Gallery, and Central Intelligence Agency.

Author's books have been translated into Spanish, French, Catalan, Russian, German, Scandinavian, and Japanese.

Adaptations

A Short Life was adapted as the television film The Plutonium Incident; Murder in the Senate was optioned for film by Tri-Star. Possessed was adapted as a film of the same name for Showtime; was the basis for the documentary In the Grip of Evil, broadcast on the Discovery Channel; and was recorded as an audiobook.

Sidelights

In addition to writing a number of books focusing on military history, Thomas B. Allen has penned novels and collaborated on works with fellow author Norman Polmar and others. Through his sixteen-year career with the National Geographic Society, he has also edited books that have entertained and informed a generation of young Americans, among them Vacationland U.S.A. and Wild Animals of North America. We Americans: Celebrating a Nation, Its People, and Its Past, which Allen also edited, has remained in print since its first publication in 1975 and was released in a special edition to mark the millennium. Of this edition, coedited with Charles O. Hyman, Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor noted that "patriotism presides over this gallery of historical images." Taylor went on to praise the editors for their choice of "eminent historians and writers … to give context to the pictures."

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1929, Allen has been writing professionally since he was fifteen years old, and even in his fiction has always grounded his writing in facts. Referring to himself as a "generalist," he once told SATA: "I started being a generalist as a newspaper reporter whose beat was what my editor called ‘general assignment.’ Since then, much of my work, particularly in National Geographic magazine, is on assignment: I cover a subject and write about it, working against a deadline and limited to a certain number of words." "I sometimes think an assignment writer is similar to an actor in a troupe," added Allen: "There is a script and a way to deliver it. Tonight it's Hamlet, tomorrow night it's Death of a Salesman—to name two of my favorite plays."

Working at the National Geographic Society allowed Allen the chance to gain expertise in many areas of nature study. Vanishing Wildlife of North America, which he wrote in 1974, presents readers of all ages a "comprehensive, profusely illustrated account of the myriad problems" facing the birds, fish, and other creatures whose habitats are threatened by the growing U.S. and Canadian population and advancing technology, according to Library Journal reviewer Lola Dudley. Including 109 creatures listed as endangered by the U.S. government, the book describes the conflict between biologists and businessmen, developers, and farmers, and "comments on the lack of concern over the fate of lesser creatures" such as small reptiles, according to a contributor to Booklist. Allen has continued to publish books on environmental topics since leaving the prestigious magazine to become a freelance writer in 1981. Guardian of the Wild: The Story of the National Wildlife Federation, 1936-1986 is one such work; it was described by a Booklist critic as an "inspiring chronology of the hard-won battle for the environment" that was then being waged by the world's largest conservation organization.

Many of Allen's books focus on his main interest: military history. War Games: The Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers Rehearsing World War III Today reveals the way the U.S. government calculated the potential risk of engagement following World War II. Beginning with a history of war gaming, which has its roots in nineteenth-century Germany, the book discusses the computer-enhanced role-playing and simulation exercises used by the armed forces and other agencies in determining the potential outcome of an at-

tack by perceived enemy powers. "Book writing calls for skills somewhat similar to those needed for assignment writing," Allen explained to SATA: "Learn about the topic, figure out how to deliver the topic to a reader, and then write in clear English." In War Games, he did just that, according to critics. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the book as "an exactingly documented, commendably measured briefing that raises disturbing questions about the games geopolitical and military strategists play far from the bloody realities of battle."

Remember Pearl Harbor: American and Japanese Survivors Tell Their Stories draws on Allen's skills as a journalist and interviewer in presenting what a Kirkus Reviews critic described as "a handsome title that will appeal to WWII buffs." Using interviews of the men and women who survived the "day of infamy"—December 7, 1941—and its aftermath, he created an "effective narrative" that presents readers with "powerful tales of warfare, destruction, and patriotism," according to Andrew Medlar in School Library Journal. From Japanese bomber pilots training for the attack in Japan to the harbor in Hawai'i where the USS Arizona sank after the aerial bombardment of the U.S. fleet, Remember Pearl Harbor offers readers a "complex view of events … in a conflict that swept people up—and nearly swept them away," in the words of Booklist contributor Randy Meyer.

Unable to use his interviewing skills for Remember Valley Forge: Patriots, Tories, and Redcoats Tell Their Stories, Allen turned to primary documents to capture the same feel for the Revolutionary War that Remember Pearl Harbor presented for World War II. The text offers the voices of famous patriots, including John Adams and George Washington, but also presents the viewpoints of little-known participants. "It is the smooth-flowing narrative's balanced mixture of the well known and obscure that makes the volume so inviting," wrote Sheila Fiscus in her School Library Journal review. Kay Weisman, writing in Booklist, considered Remember Pearl Harbor an "excellent" reference for classroom use and "a perfect introduction for those planning a visit to the site."

Allen focused on another area of military history in the non-traditional biographies George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War and Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union during the Civil War. Although each book includes the personal story of the biographical subject, they also provide a context for the use of espionage during the wars they discuss. Each features tools used by spies, including invisible ink and secret codes, and the text is accompanied by period reproductions of paintings, archival images, and maps. "Allen presents the facts with a gleeful edge, clearly enjoying his subject and writing with vigor," wrote Joyce Burner Adams in her School Library Journal review of George Washington, Spymaster. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist,

called the same book "handsome, unusual, [and] intriguing." In Booklist Hazel Rochman found Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent to be "an excellent resource for students' research," while Elizabeth M. Reardon concluded in School Library Journal that Allen's "small book contains a lot of fascinating information."

Allen has joined fellow writer Norman Polmar on several projects, including the award-winning Rickover: Controversy and Genius, a biography of Russian-born naval engineer Hyman George Rickover, who helped design the first nuclear submarine; Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage; and Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan—and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb. Code-Name Downfall discusses the development of the plan to invade Japan in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Aerial bombing, poison gas, anthrax, and ultimately the atomic bomb were discussed by General Marshall, General MacArthur, and others in the planning stages of a full-scale attack on the Japanese mainland, and Allen and Polmar clearly show that the danger of atomic weaponry was not then fully realized by the Allied command. In arguing that U.S. President Harry S Truman sought the best way to end the war with the least amount of American casualties, Code-Name Downfall sets forth what a Publishers Weekly contributor called "a convincing case to settle a long-running controversy," while in Booklist, Gilbert Taylor noted that the coau- thors' "encompassing narrative … constitutes the war's unwritten final chapter." Both Code-Name Downfall and Rickover have been republished in current editions.

Allen collaborates with Paul Dickson on The Bonus Army: An American Epic. The book covers the two-month period in 1932 when 45,000 World War I veterans descended on Washington, DC, to demand the cash bonus payment they had been promised for their wartime service. Due to the Great Depression and the looming war in Europe and Asia, the U.S. government did not comply with its promise, deferring this payment until 1945 and dispersing the assembly of veterans with military force. The incident eventually led to the creation of the G.I. Bill of Rights. Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, called The Bonus Army an "agreeably written and often moving account."

As a practitioner of both fiction and nonfiction, Allen sees little difference between the two: "to me, there is no difference in style and little difference in approach," he once explained. "Words are words; English is English." His novel A Short Life reflects this, based as it is on an actual incident involving the illegal dispersal of radioactive substances. "This, for me, is the best kind of writing," noted Allen: "‘factual fiction’ which can shed light on a vital current issue." A Short Life is based on the story of Karen Silkwood, a young woman who met an untimely death in the 1970s after she publicized the fact that she and her coworkers were exposed to high levels of radiation at a nuclear facility. In School Library Journal, Janet Leonberger praised Allen for the creation of "dramatically paced scenes" which "evoke a mood of paranoia and terror."

Allen's other forays into fiction include The Last Inmate and Ship of Gold, the latter a thriller based on World War II salvage operations that was written in collaboration with Polmar. The Last Inmate follows the release of a psychotic killer in a story that "by virtue of both logic and imagination proves gripping from start to finish," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. In Ship of Gold an attempt to raise a sunken Japanese freighter results in murder, causing an ex-Central Intelligence Agency operative to be put on the case. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Ship of Gold as "plausibly scary and great, whiz-bang fun," while in Library Journal, Brian Alley called deemed the book "a gripping thriller complete with believable characters … and an exceptionally clever plot."

As a professional author and editor, Allen views clarity as the most important aspect of his work. The rules are "all in what passes for my writer's bible: The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White." He still considers himself a student of writing, even "after more than fifty years. And I hope to keep on learning." In addition to writing, Allen has taught writing at the Writer's Center, which serves the Washingtion, DC, area.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

America, February 1, 1986, David Tomlinson, review of Rickover: Controversy and Genius, p. 76.

American History, August, 2000, review of We Americans: Celebrating a Nation, Its People, and Its Past, p. 67.

Booklist, May 15, 1974, review of Vanishing Wildlife of North America, p. 1021; April 15, 1978, review of A Short Life, p. 1322; June 15, 1987, review of War Games: The Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers Rehearsing World War III Today, p. 1542; November 15, 1987, review of Guardian of the Wild: The Story of the National Wildlife Federation, p. 516; March 15, 1988, review of Merchants of Treason: America's Secrets for Sale, p. 1206; December 15, 1992, Gilbert Taylor, review of Murder in the Senate, p. 717; June 1, 1993, Lindsay Throm, review of Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism, p. 1737; June 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of Offerings at the Wall: Artifacts from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection and Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan, p. 1722; April 15, 1997, review of Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage, p. 1453; November 15, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of America from Space, p. 561; May 15, 1999, Nancy Bent, review of The Shark Almanac, p. 1651; March, 2000, review of We Americans, p. 1193; June 1, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of The Washington Monument: It Stands for All, p. 1840; September 1, 2001, Randy Meyer, review of Remember Pearl Harbor: American and Japanese Survivors Tell Their Stories, p. 93; April 15, 2004, review of George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War, p. 1440; January 1, 2005, Jay Freeman, review of The Bonus Army: An American Epic, p. 808; December 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union during the Civil War, p. 36; December 15, 2007, Kay Weisman, review of Remember Valley Forge: Patriots, Tories, and Redcoats Tell Their Stories, p. 42.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June, 1988, Andrew Goldberg, review of War Games, p. 48.

Business Week, May 9, 1988, Morton A. Reichek, review of Merchants of Treason, p. 24.

Childhood Education, spring, 2002, Gina Hoagland, review of Remember Pearl Harbor, p. 171.

Choice, October, 1987, E. Lewis, review of War Games, p. 376; June, 1988, K.B. Sterling, review of Guardian of the Wild, p. 1576.

Discover, August, 2001, review of Shark Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, p. 78.

International Affairs, autumn, 1988, Michael Nicholson, review of War Games, p. 662.

Journal of American History, March, 1997, Sanho Tree, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 1475.

Journal of Asian Studies, February, 1996, Joseph A. Yager, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 121.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1977, review of A Short Life, p. 1329; May 1, 1987, review of War Games, p. 683; February 1, 1987, review of Ship of Gold, p. 148; January 15, 1988, review of Merchants of Treason, p. 97; May 15, 1993, review of Possessed, p. 631; July 15, 2001, review of Remember Pearl Harbor, p. 1020.

Library Journal, August, 1973, Ronald L. Coombs, review of The Last Inmate, pp. 2330-2331; June 1, 1974, Lola Dudley, review of Vanishing Wildlife of North America, p. 1557; April 1, 1987, Brian Alley, review of Ship of Gold, p. 160; July, 1987, Zachary T. Irwin, review of War Games, p. 82; December, 1987, James R. Karr, review of Guardian of the Wild, p. 123; May 1, 1988, Richard B. Finnegan, review of Merchants of Treason, p. 82; February 1, 1992, Raymond L. Puffer, review of World War II: America at War, 1941-1945, p. 82; May 1, 1993, Randall M. Miller, review of The Blue and the Gray, p. 98; June 15, 1993, Richard S. Watts, review of Possessed, p. 71; November 15, 1996, Jean E. Crampon, review of Shadows in the Sea, p. 85; April 15, 1997, Stephen W. Green, review of Spy Book, p. 72; March 1, 1998, Nancy J. Moeckel, review of Animals of Africa, p. 117; June 1, 1999, Judith Barnett, review of The Shark Almanac, p. 100; June 15, 2000, Thomas K. Fry, review of The Washington Monument, p. 102; January 1, 2005, William D. Pederson, review of The Bonus Army, p. 127.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 4, 1995, Charles Solomon, review of Offerings at the Wall, p. 15.

Marine Fisheries Review, fall, 1988, review of Guardian of the Wild, p. 218.

National Parks, January-February, 1993, Bruce Craig, review of The Blue and the Gray, p. 41.

New Statesman, August 11, 1995, Glyn Ford, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 38.

New York Review of Books, September 21, 1995, Ian Buruma, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 26.

New York Times Book Review, July 30, 1995, Michael R. Beschloss, review of Code-Name Downfall, pp. 10-11.

Oceans, November-December, 1987, Philip Kopper, review of Ship of Gold, p. 62.

Pacific Historical Review, August, 1991, Dian Olson Belanger, review of Guardian of the Wild, p. 420; August, 1996, Roger Dingman, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 500.

People, September 6, 1993, Louisa Emrelino, review of Possessed, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, June 18, 1973, review of The Last Inmate, p. 63; April, 1978, review of A Short Life, p. 100; February 13, 1987, review of Ship of Gold, p. 79; May 1, 1987, review of War Games, p. 57; February 12, 1988, review of Merchants of Treason, p. 74; November 9, 1992, review of Murder in the Senate, p. 76; May 24, 1993, review of Possessed, p. 73; May 15, 1995, review of Code-Name Downfall, p. 61; November, 1999, review of The Shark Almanac, pp. 182-183; September, 2001, review of Remember Pearl Harbor, p. 237.

School Library Journal, April, 1978, Janet Leonberger, review of A Short Life, p. 100; November, 1997, Margaret Tice, review of Spy Book, p. 142; September, 2001, Andrew Medlar, review of Remember Pearl Harbor, p. 237; May, 2004, Joyce Adams Burner, review of George Washington, Spymaster, p. 160; February, 2007, Elizabeth M. Reardon, review of Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent, p. 130; February, 2008, Sheila Fiscus, review of Remember Valley Forge, p. 130.

Time, December 9, 1996, Jesse Birnbaum, review of Spy Book, p. 86.

Washington Post Book World, December 29, 1996, review of The Shark Almanac, p. 12.

Western Historical Quarterly, August, 1989, William E. Brown, review of Guardian of the Wild, p. 337.

ONLINE

Houghton Mifflin Web Site,http://www.eduplace.com/ (September 15, 2008), "Thomas B. Allen."

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (September 15, 2008), "Thomas B. Allen."

Thomas B. Allen Home Page,http://tballen.com (September 15, 2008).

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Allen, Thomas B. 1929–

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