Our nation’s capital doesn’t have a Madison memorial, but Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, two Louisiana State University historians, argue in MADISON AND JEFFERSON (Random House, $35) that James Madison has never received the recognition in American history that he deserves; hence, the primacy of his name in the book’s title. These two men, the fourth and third presidents of the United States, partners in an informal political alliance that lasted 50 years, were highly successful political operatives who frequently employed hardball tactics in the ruthless climate of the early republic. Both men, products of the Virginia gentry, never forgot their need for support from their political base at home. Burstein and Isenberg have written a colorful and highly readable account of this period of American history in which the American republic was conceived and born.
Ben Macintyre, an associate editor at the London Times, follows up his bestselling Agent Zigzag with another World War II spy story, Operation Mincemeat (Broadway, $15), a tale so wild and entertaining that it could be a James Bond caper. Fictional agents and a bogus body are only part of the intricate plot by which MI5 successfully diverted Nazi intelligence from the planned Allied invasion of Sicily. False documents baked in a cake, an undercover removal of a three-month-old dead body from a local morgue to stand in for a drowned corpse—one clad in the thick underwear of an Oxford don—and an imaginary fiancée are only a few of the full complement of espionage tricks-of-the trade that Macintyre colorfully recounts.
The first book in Richard Rhodes’s nuclear trilogy, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, was an early favorite at Politics and Prose, and it was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in nonfiction. When the Cold War ended, nine nations together possessed a staggering 60,000 nuclear weapons. And today? THE TWILIGHT OF THE BOMBS (Knopf, $27.95), the final book in the series, states that since the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the arsenals of the superpowers have diminished. Although the current threat of nuclear war lies with the smaller and less stable nations like India and Pakistan, Rhodes believes that the possibility of a world without nuclear weapons is now within our reach. But how that is going to be accomplished is what Rhodes wants to explore, and he does so by reviewing the past 65 years of successes and failures, both political and diplomatic, in nuclear-arms negotiations.