Nonfiction Previews, Jul. 2014, Pt. 1: Nixon’s Defense, the Victorian City, & More

Abbott, Karen. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. Harper. Jul. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780062092892. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062092915. HISTORY
Belle Boyd, courier and spy for the Confederate army. Emma Edmonds, who cut her hair and enlisted as a man in the Union Army. Beautiful widow Rose O’Neale Greenhow, whose affairs with Northern politicians helped her gather intelligence for the Confederacy. Wealthy Richmond abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew, who ran a spy ring that outfoxed rebel detectives. All were women spies whose little-known stories are being disclosed by Abbott, New York Times best-selling author of Sin in the Second City. With a 50,000-copy first printing and big book club outreach.

Dean, John W. The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Viking. Jul. deanjohn2014. 416p. ISBN 9780670025367. $29.95. CD: Penguin Random Audio. HISTORY
Legal counsel to President Richard Nixon, Dean draws on his own transcripts of nearly 1,000 conversations, information secretly recorded by the president, and extensive documents in the National Archives and the Nixon Library to explore the extent of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. The subtitle poses the crucial question. Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation; with an eight-city tour.

Duffy, Peter. Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring. Scribner. Jul. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781451667950. $28. HISTORY
Veteran journalist/author Duffy’s study should be both thrilling and sobering, as it tells the story of the first double agent in the FBI’s history. When World War II broke out, naturalized German American William G. Sebold was recruited by the Nazis but approached the FBI, feeding it information that eventually led to the arrest of 33 enemy agents in America. Pushed back from May 2014.

Flanders, Judith. The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 544p. ISBN 9781250040213. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466835450. HISTORY
Better than a fun fair. Celebrated for The Invention of Murder, a story of Victorian fascination with ghastly crimes, Victorian-era expert Flanders gives us a detailed look at London as Dickens knew it, when it grew from a charming little town to a booming city of 6.5 million. Gin palaces and chop-houses, sewers and slums, markets and entertainment emporia—it’s all here for the asking.

Macintyre, Ben. A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Crown. Jul. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780804136631. $27. CD: Penguin Random Audio. HISTORY
Writer-at-large for the London Times and a best-selling author (e.g., Agent Zigzag), Macintyre tells the story of Kim Philby’s high-level betrayal of his country. It’s actually the story of Philby’s relationship with two other men, English operative Nicholas Elliott and CIA powerhouse James Jesus Angleton, whose confidences he passed to the Soviet Union. The result: every Anglo-American spy operation at the time failed, and both men were forever devastated by Philby’s actions. With January 2013 marking the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow,  MI5 released its files on Philby up to that time, so Macintyre had the advantage of lots of fresh, new material.

O’Connell, Robert L. Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman. Random. Jul. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781400069729. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679604693. shermanBIOGRAPHY
In time for the 150th anniversary of G. William Tecumseh Sherman’s iconic and inexorable march through the South, nationally best-selling author O’Connell (The Ghosts of Cannae) offers a biography that presents Sherman as implacable military strategist, revered leader of the Army of the West (he made the transcontinental railroad possible postwar), and family man facing a contentious wife. Billed as revisionist biography; pushed back from May 2014.

Shiffman, John. Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting. S. & S. Jul. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781451655131. $28. HISTORY
Pulitzer Prize finalist Shiffman investigates a three-year sting called Operation Shakespeare conducted by an elite undercover Homeland Security unit aiming to keep Iran, Russian, China, Pakistan, and North Korea from acquiring sophisticated American-made electronics capable of guiding missiles, jamming radar, and triggering weapons like wireless IEDs. The targets weren’t just enemy brokers but American manufacturers and global bankers. Shiffman racked up a New York Times best seller and multiple foreign sales with Priceless.

Tomlinson, Chris. Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name—One White, One Black. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 432p. ISBN tomlinson9781250005472. $26.99. HISTORY
Supervisory correspondent for the Associated Press in Austin, TX, Tomlinson spent 14 years as a foreign correspondent, then returned home to report on a far more personal story: the two families, one black and one white, who trace their ancestry to the Central Texas slave plantation owned by his family. Especially interesting is the discussion of Tomlinson’s relationship with LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the top running backs in NFL history. The author’s recent documentary on this subject won the Silver Heart Award at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2013, and several PBS stations will be airing the film.

Unger, Miles J. Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. S. & S. Jul. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781451678741. $29.95. BIOGRAPHY
Art historian Unger, formerly the managing editor of Art New England, chronicles the life of master painter, sculptor, and architect Michelangelo through six works: the Pietà, The Last Judgment, the glorious David, the Medici tombs, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the vaults and dome of St. Peter’s. Especially important is the discussion of how Michelangelo changed the practice of art itself by insisting that the artist’s and not the patron’s wishes were paramount.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Krista Mercer says:

    Is there another ISBN for the Judith Flanders book? The one listed here points to the “Double Agent” book (the title listed above). Thanks!