Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War

By Deborah Cohen

‘Effervescent’ New Yorker Best Books Of 2022 So Far

‘Bursts with colour and incident’ FT Best Books of Summer

Read this prize-winning historian’s “immersive” ( New York Times) account of the famous writers who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism

They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles, sometimes gliding through countries in the splendour of a first-class sleeper car. While empires collapsed and fledgling democracies faltered, they chased deposed empresses, international financiers and Balkan gunrunners, then knocked back doubles late into the night.

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial is the extraordinary story of John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson: a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism.

In those tumultuous years, they landed exclusive interviews with Hitler, Franco and Mussolini who sought to persuade them of fascism’s inevitable triumph. Nehru and Gandhi also courted them, seeking American allies against British imperialism. Churchill saw them as his best shot at convincing a reluctant America to join the war against Hitler.

They committed themselves to the cause of freedom: fiercely and with all its hazards. They argued about love, war, sex, death and everything in between, and they wrote it all down. The fault lines that ran through a crumbling world, they would find, ran through their own marriages and friendships, too.

Told with the immediacy of a conversation overheard, this revelatory book captures how the global upheavals of the twentieth century felt to live through up close.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 17 Mar 2022
Pages: 592
ISBN: 978-0-00-830586-4
Deborah Cohen is Professor of Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of three books including The War Come Home, Household Gods and Family Secrets, for which she won the Forkosch Prize and the Stansky Prize.

‘High-speed, four-lane storytelling … Cohen’s all-action narrative bursts with colour and incident’Financial Times -

‘A rivetingly raw account’Spectator -

‘As effervescent, for more than four hundred pages, as its winsome and hyperactive characters’New Yorker -

‘Ambitious … a distressing, immersive recounting of how denial, passivity and pacification aided the rise of authoritarian regimes’New York Times -

‘Today the war news is available around the clock on TV screens, in print, and on the internet. Back then the best source of news was an intrepid band of young American newspaper correspondents … prodigious research and sparkling prose. The book is a model of its kind’Wall Street Journal -

”'Giddy with the tumultuous drama of the era… the rollicking group biography of a colourful cabal of American war reporters in the 1920s and 30s who landed seminal interviews with dictators and revolutionaries alike” - Marina Hyde, Favourite Reads of 2022

”'Sheer brilliance of writing and storytelling . . . entwining collective biography with the urgency of journalism’s interwar critiques to produce a riveting and deeply thought-provoking read” - Charlotte Elkins

‘A fresh, fast-paced history of the twentieth-century’s most defining events through the eyes of the foreign correspondents who dashed off to cover them … A riveting narrative that unites public and private affairs with rare fluency and power’Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch -

‘Beautifully written … A fascinating reminder of the days when first rate correspondents had not just access, time and money but real influence over world affairs’Caroline Moorehead, author of Martha Gellhorn: A Life -

‘Brilliantly conceived, beautifully written, this is a daring new history of the world between the wars …Unforgettable’Adam Tooze, author of Shutdown -