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Dalton Trumbo was the central figure in the "Hollywood Ten," the blacklisted and jailed screenwriters. One of several hundred writers, directors, producers, and actors who were deprived of the opportunity to work in the motion picture industry from 1947 to 1960, he was the first to see his name on the screen again. When that happened, it was Exodus, one of the year's biggest movies.This intriguing biography shows that all his life Trumbo was a radical of the homegrown, independent variety. From his early days in Colorado, where his grandfather was a county sheriff, to Los Angeles, where he organized a bakery strike, to bootlegging, to Hollywood, where he was the highest-paid screenwriter when he was blacklisted (and a man with constant money problems), his life rivaled anything he had written. His credits include Kitty Foyle, The Brave One, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Spartacus, Lonely are the Brave, and Papillon, and he is the author of a power pacifist novel, Johnny Got His Gun.

361 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1977

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About the author

Bruce Cook

32 books33 followers
Bruce Alexander Cook was an American journalist and author who also wrote under the pseudonym Bruce Alexander. He wrote historical fiction and nonfiction.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Cook's first book was a nonfiction work, The Beat Generation, published in 1971. His first novel was Chicago-based Sex Life, in 1978.

He wrote four novels featuring Los Angeles detective Antonio "Chico" Cervantes under the name Bruce Cook and also a series of novels about the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, the real-life founder of London's first police force, under the name Bruce Alexander, the last of which was published posthumously by his widow and writer John Shannon. Young Will: The Confessions of William Shakespeare was also published posthumously.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 108 reviews
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
664 reviews
November 10, 2015
When I was in high school, during the Vietnam War, I read Johnny Got His Gun, a book that changed forever the way I thought about war. The author was Dalton Trumbo, a name I had never heard of before that time. I’ve heard a lot about him in the decades since.

Trumbo was arguably the best and certainly the best know screen writer in the history of Hollywood. His screen credits include Kitty Foyle, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, The Brave One, Roman Holiday, Exodus, Papillion, and Spartacus. What he is best known for, though, is that he single-handedly, if some sources are to be believed, broke the blacklist that, for over a decade, dictated who could work in Hollywood.

Most of the books I am asked to review have not yet been published but Trumbo, and the accompanying audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels, was actually written in 1976 by Bruce Cook, with Trumbo’s knowledge and full cooperation and is now being re-released to coincide with the release of the Trumbo biopic starring Bryan Cranston.

It is a comprehensive biography that describes in depth Trumbo's childhood in Grand Junction, Colorado, and his evolution from baker to writer during the height of the Great Depression. It covered his rise to A-list screenwriter, his appearance before the House Un-American Affairs Committee, his trial and conviction for contempt of Congress, a misdemeanor for which he spent one year in federal prison.

“I remember visiting Dalton after his first night in the DC jail. He told me that in the middle of the night the police brought in a guy. He was charged with some heinous offense, assault with a deadly weapon or something. Then this gang member asked him what he was in for, and Dalton told him. This tough guy shrank back. ‘Holy Jesus,’ he said. ‘Contempt of Congress?’ He was impressed, overwhelmed.”

Following his release from prison Trumbo, the other members of The Hollywood Ten, and anyone else who aided them or was suspected of communist sympathies were officially blacklisted, unable to work in the film industry. Those who did work did so under the table and received no recognition for their efforts. When ‘The Brave One’ won an Oscar for the best screenplay it was awarded to Robert Rich, a man who did not exist. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo.

In time, the blacklist was breached, not by Trumbo alone but by many people who recognized that there were few things more Un-American than to deprive someone of the right to earn a living based solely on his politics.

Cook portrays Trumbo as a larger than life character with a personality as big and bold as Earnest Hemingway. While the book does portray him in a positive light, it still provides enough information that the reader has little trouble forming their own opinion of the man, his life and the industry that he worked in.

“There is more to be said for the man than that. For even in a time like our own, one practically inured to the power of myth, a life like Trumbo’s takes on something of a fabulous quality. His has been a fabulous life, a tale told, an old-fashioned story that illustrates the virtues of hard work, of keeping faith with one’s self and one’s ideals, a quintessentially American story that he could, with only a few important details altered, have written himself for the Saturday Evening Post, back in the thirties. But no, he didn’t write it. He lived it, improvising it from the days and hours he was given, making it up as he went along.

“Let him be remembered by that story and his place will is assured.”


*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review book was based on an advanced reading copy obtained at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. While this does take any ‘not worth what I paid for it’ statements out of my review, it otherwise has no impact on the content of my review.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.
*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
*1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
Profile Image for Lindz..
942 reviews117 followers
April 3, 2016
I'm very happy I read this book after seeing the movie. It made me appreciate this man all the more. A true human that was meant to be a literary inspiration, and fought! He didn't back down from homeland enemies that wanted to diminish him and his talent. This story of his life honestly made me realize that as a writer I'll never be finished telling my stories, and I would improve each time I told one. I would never stop growing and choosing writing as a chosen profession I would always be in a battle. Not just with myself, but with the world at large trying to dictate what I should and shouldn't be writing! Thank you, Dalton Trumbo, for being a true writer and inspiration!
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 41 books161 followers
January 29, 2018
A very good book solidly written and overflowing with quotes and first-hand information. It didn't rise to a 4 or 5 star book simply because it rarely surprised me or gave me more than the basics. While I got a lot of details and particulars about events and many secondary sources and people, I didn't feel I got to know Trumbo or his wife nearly as much as I expected.
Profile Image for Frank.
Author 5 books16 followers
October 13, 2019
There's a lot wrong with this movie, but it is a valuable case study of Hollywood Communism, so let's give it the attention it deserves:
The myth goes like this: The Hollywood Ten were innocent victims of a villainous “Red Scare,” perpetrated by paranoid, delusional right-wingers who abused the noble artists' constitutional rights. It's an enduring narrative, and “Trumbo” is hardly the first mass-media presentation of the evil “Blacklist” and the “wreckage” it caused to its victims, who were – wink, wink – not really hardcore Communists, rather patriotic Americans and champions of the First Amendment. This narrative is enshrined even in textbooks, and one would be hard-pressed to find a professor, student, librarian, or publisher that doesn't subscribe to it.
But as former influential Communists like David Horowitz and Ron Radosh point out, this myth is pernicious Communist propaganda.
Though they are often cast as imaginary or exaggerated Communists, every member of the the Hollywood Ten were secret but card-carrying members of the Communist Party, who swore an oath to genocidal dictator Joseph Stalin to do everything in their power to promote Marxism and undermine Capitalism and the United Sates. Never mind that under their hero Stalin, dissenters like themselves were forced into slave labor in the gulags; “America bad, socialism good,” has been the prevailing message of the Blacklist narrative for decades.
From the opening screenshot, this movie misleads. The screenwriter states that thousands joined the CPUSA in response to fascism, ignoring the fact that Trumbo and his CPUSA comrades were active supporters of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Trumbo and his comrades were against the U.S. entering the war against the Nazis, because they dutifully towed Stalin's anti-war policy, which was designed to allow Stalin and his ally Hitler to carve up Europe “peacefully.” Trumbo lent his support to the Hitler-Stalin pact by releasing his powerful anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun,” a riveting story and an artistic triumph, but one deeply tainted by Trumbo's hypocrisy. When the Hitler-Stalin pact broke, all loyal CPUSA members – on orders from Moscow – switched overnight from being vehement anti-war activists to being vehement, pro-war fascist-fighters. Trumbo had “Johnny Got His Gun” pulled from the market. He then compiled a list of names of people who wrote to him to request his book and turned it over to the FBI as a list of possible anti-war agitators. This “naming of names” is key to understanding the myth: For generations, the narrative of the Hollywood ten has featured a demonization of those who named names against the Communists in Hollywood. In this myth, Dalton Trumbo has been cast as a victim of those who shamefully named names, and he has also been cast as a stand-up-guy who would never name names. But Dalton Trumbo did indeed name names to the FBI, encouraging investigations of innocent people by the very government he hated and swore an oath to oppose. And he did it all in service of Joseph Stalin, whose deprivations and body count dwarfed even those of Hitler.
In this film, the Communists (the heroes) are portrayed as witty, convivial, thoughtful, kind, and sensitive, while the patriots (the villains) are portrayed as stern, humorless, and downright mean. Typical Americans of the time, represented here by the Trumbo's suburban neighbors, are characterized as close-minded, hostile, and “overbreeding.” Trumbo's defense of Communism to his young daughter is, well, so simple even a child could understand it; the guy actually initiates her into Marxism and declares her a Communist because she agrees with him that she should - in theory - share her lunch with a schoolmate who didn't have one.
Cute, right?
Myth: a group of innocent, persecuted artists went wrongfully to prison and lost everything merely for defending their constitutional rights and refusal to compromise on their noble principles – all because of unjustified fears of Communism. Reality: these spoiled-by-Capitalism Communists hid behind the very constitution they scorned and did small and lenient time for contempt of court because Communist infiltration was a very real and actual threat. For example, around the same time that Trumbo and his comrades were writing pro-Soviet and anti-American themes into their films, Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg stole classified nuclear secrets and transferred them to the Soviet Union, enabling the Communist dictatorship and sworn enemy of the United States to expedite their production of nuclear weapons. Also occurring at the time was the high-level State Department infiltration of Soviet spy Alger Hiss, the architect of the U.N., who helped set up that body to serve Communist interests and undermine American interests. The “Red Scare” - so skillfully spun in this film as a paranoid and delusional cabal - was largely justified by a nation deeply infiltrated by representatives of the most murderous and oppressive ideology in human history.
Like most of the many “parlor pinks” in Hollywood (then and now) Trumbo was a man of immense wealth, privilege, and influence who have used the freedoms they enjoy in America to pepper their films with sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, anti-American messaging. This movie predictably concludes with a soliloquy by Trumbo in which he casts the Blacklist and anti-Communism as “evil,” completely missing the irony that in his preferred system, artists like himself were censored, tortured, imprisoned into slave labor, or simply shot.
In addition to being blatantly dishonest, hagiographic, and propagandistic, this movie is also just downright dull. An honest presentation of Trumbo's life as a Communist tool would've made for a film with much more tension and intrigue. This is just warmed-over, retread Communist propaganda that perpetuates the myth that imagined Communists were innocent victims of right-wing hysteria.
Dalton Trumbo, a very talented and hard-working writer, wasted much of his life's work soldiering for a (truly) evil empire. His legacy sits squarely on the wrong side of history.
For more real, actual, history of Dalton Trumbo's life in Communism, see here: https://www.nationalreview.com/2013/1...
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews192 followers
September 21, 2015
"Trumbo" is the story of Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood screenwriters targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, headed by Joseph McCarthy. The 1950s were a very tenuous time politically for the United States of America. The country was still reeling from everything that happened during World War II and the Red Scare was making waves around the world. An overzealous Congress attacked many innocent people in the name of trying to figure out who the communists were in Hollywood. Trumbo was one of the screenwriters that was caught up in all this and was originally blacklisted. This is his story.

This book is being re-released as there is a movie soon to come out about Trumbo that stars Bryan Cranston, star of "Breaking Bad." It's no wonder that this book is being made into movie because it really is both an interesting and important story to tell. To me, so many of the things that happened during the 1950s and the Red Scare are a really scary part of American history. This country was founded on the principles of freedom and independence and some of the ways that Congress tried to silence anyone who had a different opinion than themselves was incredibly scary. Trumbo was a very outspoken guy who wrote stories and pamphlets and wasn't afraid to speak out about his beliefs. Unfortunately this got him swept up in McCarthy's witchhunt.

The author of this book drew on many first-hand accounts from Trumbo and those that knew him well. We definitely get a great sense of the man. Before reading this book, I really didn't know much about him. I knew that the Red Scare and the likes of Joseph McCarthy ended up ruining the lives of those that were named and those that "named names" during crazy congressional hearings. Trumbo is one of the screenwriters that was black listed and he had to physically remove himself from the country so that he and his family would be safe. Even with the political climate today, I'd like to think that something like House Committee on Un-American Activities isn't something that could possibly exist. As with any history, I think it's important to be aware of it so that we can never repeat it. The author did a great job of bringing Trumbo to life and I'm definitely glad that I read this before seeing the movie!
Profile Image for Matt.
Author 1 book9 followers
December 8, 2013
Trumbo was born in my hometown of Montrose, CO, but no one ever mentioned him there once during my childhood or schooling- though he unquestionably accomplished more than anyone else from western CO. As a part of the "Hollywood Ten" he was blacklisted as a communist in 1950 & thus removed from conversation in his conservative hometown. A very interesting person, Trumbo wrote one of my favorite books: And Johnny Got His Gun.
Profile Image for Mientras Leo.
1,389 reviews170 followers
January 31, 2016
Un libro que se asienta con un gran realismo en una época, los años 50 del siglo pasado, en la que el país asentado sobre un principio de libertad, realizó su propia caza de brujas. Trumbo, protagonista indiscutible y conocido en nuestro país como novelista más que como guionista, fue uno de los perseguidos.
Un libro sumamente interesante
Profile Image for Larry Bassett.
1,415 reviews300 followers
February 21, 2019
This book predominantly covers the Hollywood blacklisting era of the 1940s 50s and 60s. During that period about 100 people in the movie industry were subpoenaed by the house un-American activities committee HUAC and about 20 people refuse to cooperate. 10 were sent to prison for contempt of Congress.

Dalton Trumbo was primarily a screenwriter. He was blacklisted for a decade or two but continued to work by working under other professional names. He grew up in a low income family and Rose to substantial wealth but he continued to vacillate between wealth and near poverty for many years.

The audible book is presented in a most interesting way. The author gathered information for this biography by interviewing Mr. Trumbo and many of his contemporaries. The structure of the Story insinuates the author into the plot as his presence interacting with the interviewees As well as his own opinions are plainly displayed. I thought the technique was handled very well and the audible version also done very well.

Dalton Trumbo was a very interesting personality. He was a communist for a period of time, probably accurately considered left-wing for all of his life, but mostly a very strong determined personality. He had a complex world code.

The characters in the book are mostly men. The women included were wives and Hollywood starlets. Other than those roles women were mostly not included in the movie making industry.

If you consider yourself a progressive, you should definitely read this book and learn something about an era that was known For its rabid anti-communism. The HUAC in the house of representative’s and McCarthy in the Senate displayed the political focus for many years.

The author clearly leans in the direction of admiring Dalton Trumbo but he tries to suggest the reality of some contrary views. Trumbo seems to be One of those characters whom people either love or hate. There is also some debate about whether he could have been a more successful artist as a writer of novels instead of a screenwriter of movies. One of the things you will learn from this book is a little bit about how movies were made in that era and how all the different players in the process came together to create the final product.

Trumbo wrote the well-known book Johnny Got His Gun Which he also made into a movie. Many of the movies that he participated in making we’re made under other names during the blacklist period. Having experienced poverty he was pretty enamored of making a lot of money. And he did that regularly. But because of the blacklist among other things his financial state was pretty erratic. There were times he had to borrow money and times he help to support other people in the industry having a hard time financially because of the blacklist. He was scrupulous about repaying his debts but pretty easy about forgiving his debtors.
Profile Image for Owain.
Author 1 book3 followers
March 26, 2017
I received this book free from the publishers which, to be honest, was slightly annoying considering how I'd bought the damn thing a few weeks beforehand. Nevertheless it's a great book. This is the best biography I've read to-date. It's particularly interesting to me because it deals with an incredibly successful writer, a screenwriter who even in later life still seems fixated on becoming a successful novelist despite having several novels published and critically acclaimed. A writer who managed to make his work so valuable that he could overcome a United States government blacklist not by working around it but by continuing to working through it. Just what they didn't want him to do.

Trumbo's life has almost been completely defined by the Hollywood blacklist and by his leading role in being victimised by it and in fighting back against it. As time goes on and his films become less relevant I'm sure he'll become much more associated with the blacklist story. I think the fact that the book is being republished along side a new major film about Trumbo represents a further thawing in the western cultural hegemony's attitude towards Communism. Politically Communism isn't so much of an immediate threat to western Capitalist society as it was in Trumbo's time. There are other enemies for it to fight.

Evidently enough time has passed for Trumbo and the CPUSA to present no perceived threat to the political establishment. Therefore the story has become available for certain investors to risk investing in the process of creating the film and publishing the book so they can profit from marketing Trumbo's story- A reinforcing of the story's message that free speech is not tolerated if it presents a threat to the status quo, with the exception that it will be tolerated so long as the threat of the promise of political change is not so imminent as to threaten short-term profit making. i.e. just as the Capitalists tolerated Trumbo working through the blacklist despite the govt. trying to ban him for presenting a threat to Capitalism the Capitalists themselves were willing to risk their existence as Capitalists to generate immediate profit from exploiting the very labour presenting the threat. -That's like sticking your hand into a crocodile's mouth because there's as fiver on its tongue. Here the inherent contradiction in Capitalism is brought to the fore; Capitalism must rely on the force that presents the greatest threat to its existence: labour. Investors are willing to sell an anti-Capitalist message that ultimately presents a threat to their continued existence as Capitalists and yet they are willing to do that because they can make some money in the meantime. That is Capital investing in its own demise. Is that the sound of Karl Marx laughing from beyond the grave I hear?

Further irony occurs when we look at how both the blacklisted labourers (the screenwriters) and their capitalist employers were united in their opposition to the US government in order to overturn the blacklist. Not just the labourers ability to work had been removed but the Capitalists' right to exploit labour had been removed which is why the government's blacklist-although enacted with the best interests of Capitalism's survival at heart ultimately couldn't blacklist the Communist labourers because it couldn’t go against the law of Capital exploiting labour showing how inherent those contradictions really are.

Now about the book itself:

Trumbo was the son of poor working class parents from the mid-west of the US. The family emigrated west during the troubled times surrounding the great depression. This part of the story instantly made me think of the Grapes of Wrath. Although the Trumbos weren't in such a bad fix as the Joads, they found work and a new life in Los Angeles.

The move to Los Angeles is critical as this eventually steered Dalton Trumbo's aspirations to be a writer towards Hollywood and writing scripts for films. He managed to get a foot in the door of a big Hollywood film studios and eventually began a lifelong career in screenwriting that not even the blacklist could stop gathering many awards along the way.

Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party, although Cook's biography doesn't delve too deeply into Trumbo's politics the author's personal opinion weirdly suggests Trumbo was a liberal. Trumbo himself never in his life denied being a communist although he twice joined the CPUSA and twice let his membership of the Party lapse. That merely records his level of dedication and activity within the Party. What we can say is that he wasn't willing to break his links with Communism and was willing to go to prison rather than deny his membership of the Party. Doesn't sound like the actions of a non-Communist to me. Here's his own words on the subject,

To me it [Party membership] was an essential part of being alive and part of the time at a very significant period in history

It comes down to this, if Lenin was right, then Browder was wrong-and vice versa. I prefer to believe Lenin was right.
-Trumbo speaking about revisionist ex-leader of the CPUSA, Earl Browder who steered the Party towards a liberalist stance.

Trumbo sacrificed quite a lot in going to prison, in getting blacklisted and the subsequent employment problems it gave him. People have tried to accuse him of being a 'Swimming Pool Communist', i.e. a rich person flirting with a dangerous ideology. However, I would tend to agree with the author of the biography who is of the opinion that becoming rich from the wages of his own labour and being willing to lose it all and go to prison after a legal stand-off with pretty much the world's largest anti-Communist organisation made Trumbo an incredibly principled person.
Profile Image for Msjodi777.
330 reviews5 followers
February 2, 2016
I found this book when I was looking for something new at hoopla. Dalton Trumbo was a favorite of mine when I was a lot younger than I am now. Saw Johnny Got His Gun when it came out back in 1971 and was blown away by it. Of course the movie never did anything, but because of the movie I read the book, and became a fan.

Of course, back then I didn't know anything about the Hollywood Ten and the blacklist. I knew about McCarthy and his "Red Hunt" and I knew that some actors left Hollywood because of it - Charlie Chaplin being one of the most famous - but didn't know about what people like Trumbo went thru because of this.

I also didn't know that this book had been made into a movie - guess that's what I get for not having a tv. But it has.

So with all I didn't know, I started listening to this book. Was a bit put off at the beginning because it didn't sound like narrator, Luke Daniels, was going to read this as I knew he could. He started out with just a normal speaking voice, kinda boring, and flat, but when he got to a quote by Trumbo, he changed, and I knew this would be a winner. It's all here, how he started out, how he became a screenwriter of B movies, then came the Hollywood Ten, and he would not let the government push him around, in fact he went to jail for contempt of Congress, after jail, he was blacklisted by the studio heads, so he could not have his name on any movie script he wrote - technically the studios would not hire him, but the independent film makers did, and he used a pseudonym so he could get paid. In fact, he won an Oscar for a movie he wrote under a different name. Trumbo worked very hard to get the blacklist lifted, but it took nearly 15 years before his name could be included among the credits of a movie. He was finally given credit for his work on Exodus and Spartacus.

All in all, an excellent book, which should have been made into a movie written by Dalton Trumbo. <><
Profile Image for Andie.
831 reviews8 followers
October 28, 2015
I received this audio book as part of the Early Reviewers program from LibraryThing.com and upon listening to it had to wonder why, since this book was written in 1977 and its author is now dead. I guess it's because the movie based on it is being released in November, so they are hoping to generate interest in the book.

Dalton Trumbo is a seminal character in the Red Scare of the late 1940's and early 1940's. As pat of the original Hollywood 10, he went before the House Un-American committee in 1947, was sent to prison for contempt of Congress for a year and was then black-listed as a writer in Hollywood (although he continued to write scripts under assumed names).He was also the first writer to break the blacklist in 1960 when he wrote the script for MI>Spartacus.

Bruce Cook, clearly hero-worships Trumbo and wrote the book while the writer was still alive (although severely debilitated by radiation treatments for lung cancer), so the book reads more like a memoir than a critical biography. And, perhaps, the events described in the book were still too fresh in 1977 to be looked at with an unemotional critical eye. That may be the job of another writer in the future.
Profile Image for Hannah.
321 reviews3 followers
November 27, 2018
Not quite as good as I’d hoped. Charlotte Chandler’s biography of Billy Wilder is brilliant and I naively thought, given the blacklist story this would be as good if not better.

The book is written more like a biography of Bruce Cook and the time he spent writing and researching Trumbo.
I’ve never read a biography where the author makes himself a character; it doesn’t really work here. He’s also very biased in an obvious and awkward way.

The numerous acronyms for the various Hollywood guilds, unions, panels and committees and groups get a bit overwhelming and I often lost track. The book lost my attention and I drifted off quite a bit which is why it took me so long to read.

It’s very contradictory at times, there is a huge amount of praise for Trumbo’s extraordinary talent yet his writing is then criticised and described as mediocre.

Thankfully the book does become much more interesting when Trumbo is jailed and subsequently blacklisted.

I’ll be watching the film shortly and I suspect it will be an improvement on the book. On numerous occasions whilst reading I thought that the biography would work much better as a tv programme.
Profile Image for Divya Rao.
45 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2016
This was a solid, well-researched biography. It feels a lot like it's written by someone who remembers the Cold War a lot more palpably than I do, and so veers towards the hagiographic. That said, it probably presents the best case for that as possible--it sounds like, ego and all, Trumbo was legitimately brave in the face of inappropriate Congressional inquiries, and phenomenally persistent and productive during his years on the blacklist.

That said, while I'm glad I read it, I think that it would be fine to skip the book and stick with the movie on this one. With two exceptions, I got everything I needed out of this story from the movie.
The two exceptions--Trumbo's profligate spending and the family's time in Mexico--weren't really that important to the story, though they did add interesting color, and an interesting dimension to his work on The Brave One. I also thought the book suffered from the same flaw as the movie, which was that it just proceeded through time with no major movie climax.
Profile Image for Neal Alexander.
196 reviews8 followers
June 21, 2020
Biography of the prolific screenwriter who was jailed for refusing to answer the House Un-American Activities Committee’s questions. After his release, he carried on writing despite the blacklist, and two of his screenplays won Oscars under pseudonyms. Some producers worked with him because he had to accept lower pay as long as he was a non-person. Gradually, he and others loosened the grip of the blacklist till he could be credited properly. His last project was Papillon, on which he worked in Jamaica till he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This book, as well as being a well-researched biography, evokes the Hollywood film industry from the 30s to the 70s.
Profile Image for Star ☔️.
482 reviews
June 24, 2019
This biography is a look into the compelling life of blacklisted, Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. It's intriguing and gives you insight into the whole blacklist history and how Dalton's life was effected by it and those around him. I found the audio book very interesting and thorough in covering his life. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see the new film about Trumbo, writers, people in the film industry, and screenwriters. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Profile Image for Patrick Book.
914 reviews7 followers
January 29, 2016
A very interesting and lengthy study of a very talented man in a very unusual situation. Very illuminating, as I had no real knowledge of the Hollywood blacklist and the people involved.

Given that it's very prominent now because of the movie, it's important to remember this was written almost 40 years ago, since it's written in a very present tense.
Profile Image for Brianna.
66 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2018
The first bit of this book was great - well-written, capturing an interesting person's life on paper. As soon as it switched into the politics and the trial relating to him being a "communist", it got really boring really fast. I stopped 230 pages in, reading about 50 pages past when I lost interest in the hopes it would pick up again. Nope, just more of the same, more tedious than anything.
Profile Image for Realini.
3,327 reviews76 followers
July 4, 2017
Trumbo, written by John McNamara, based on the book by Bruce Cook
8 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/

Trumbo is a very entertaining film.
Considering that the hero was a communist, many people would reject it.

Having lived under a communist regime, I also have qualms about the protagonist and his wrong sympathies.
They used to say, and this is apparently an anecdote, not one of the multitudes of jokes we exchanged to make hell more livable:

- Who is not communist when young, had no heart
- But who is still a communist when old, has no brains

The catastrophic argument was that socialism, communism are such splendid concepts, the only problem being implementation.
The concept, the philosophy in itself is disastrous and this proved by the fact that the system failed Everywhere.

After this initial background check on the hero of the narrative, I will admit that he is likeable in the film.
And not just in fictional, embellished form, for I had the chance to hear the real Dalton Trumbo talk in some documentaries.

This being a complex, intriguing protagonist, the film only gains by not telling the story of a positive only and therefore more boring character.
The story is based on real events and celebrities take stands on the two opposite sides of the conflict.

John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Hedda Hopper and others lead the “crusade” against the communist threat.
As stated here, in my view, the Soviet peril could not be exaggerated- notice the interference of today’s Russia in the American elections, the Ukraine, Georgia…to mention just a few cases-notwithstanding the silliness of the three aforementioned characters.

Dalton Trumbo has embraced communist ideals and if you ask me, he should have paid for that, given their murderous nature:

- Stalin, Mao and communist regimes in general have proved that they are more dangerous than the Nazis: they have killed more of their own people than Hitler did!!

Nevertheless, Dalton Trumbo is right when he mentions the American Constitution and his freedom of speech rights.
The writer was a smart – except for his embrace of mass murderers and their doctrine- humorous, creative man.

One could almost cast him as a “role model” except for the flaw that I keep emphasizing, for those “generous concepts” have affected my life and my family, as we had to wait in interminable lines for anything- bread included.
It is hard to have compassion for the man who went to jail and had to work hard in order to support his family…

- For long intervals, he worked in a bath, with hot water and lights over his head…
- Well, under communism, these were luxuries, for hot water and water itself were restricted, the electricity was on only during some periods…

Dalton Trumbo should have tried to experiment with these ideas by coming to live here for some time.
Apart from the negative personages, we have Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger that help rehabilitate the hero.

Otto Preminger is offering Trumbo work, on the script of Exodus, even if this film was not a success, in spite of the fact that the original material is great.
Kirk Douglas has a movie of a much larger scale- the famous Spartacus- that was directed by a cinema God- Stanley Kubrick.

Dalton Trumbo has won two Academy Awards for his work, albeit as a blacklisted writer, he could not get the prizes himself.
However, he could use that recognition to make a tremendous point, when he revealed he was the awarded author.

It is with mixed feelings that I take this film, on the one hand the work is very good, but on the other I hate communists, regardless of their other attributes.
Profile Image for Brenden Gallagher.
301 reviews16 followers
November 23, 2019
The parts of the story that you pick up "Trumbo" for are wonderful. Bruce Cook offers a thoughtful, thorough, and penetrating account the Hollywood Blacklist, the events that led up to it, and the backlash. In particular, the accounts of HUAC hearings, the naming of names, and the subsequent imprisonment of the Hollywood 10 are rivetting.

Additionally, the chapters on the artists living in exile, and how some found success after the Blacklist and others didn't is really interesting. Along the way, the book has much to say about politics and art, and what one can accomplish that the other can't, and vice versa.

"Trumbo" is so successful in recounting the story of the Blacklist that you wish the entire book has focused there. You can't shake the feeling that the book would be stronger if is began at the end of World War II and ended with Trumbo's name being up on the screen in the 60s, breaking the Blacklist.

This isn't to say that Trumbo's early and later life weren't interesting, but they certainly aren't as engaging as the Black List years. There's that joke about being unlucky enough to live in interesting times, and frankly, Trumbo wasn't in great proximity to the truly interesting until he joined the Communist Party at a time when that could doom your career.

Interesting people aren't necessarily that interesting throughout their lives, and Trumbo is a great example. Yes, he was poor during the Depression. Yes, he grew up hard. Yes, he fought in World War 2. And Yes he was a successful screenwriter. But, this all was true of many people.

It was the Black List that made Trumbo special, and though the book seems to know that, Cook tries to find something in the rest of Trumbo's life that led to that moment. He suceeds. Trumbo was special. But, it might have been better to read about the such as special man exclusively when he was at his most exceptional.
Profile Image for Gregory Freeman.
131 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2021

What makes and breaks a good biography is how the author brings the subject to life, becoming more than a collection of anecdotes and dates together to form some sort of narrative that holds the the reader's attention. This is the easiest accomplishment of any biographer. What elevates the truly great biographies are those that give the reader a sense of shared experience. In Trumbo I felt I was getting the "bum's rush" through a man's life but never got a deeper look into what motivated his creativity or significant periods of his life, namely the period in which he was blacklisted and spent time in prison. It all flashes by without giving these events any full account. My hope was that it was going to offer some personal insight into the HUAC hearings which destroyed the lives and careers of many, Trumbo being one who defied the bullying tactics of the committee to make him "name names". It was a heroic act, but it is given very little coverage. There are moments of interest, but very few and far between. I'd give this book only a very marginal recommendation.
Profile Image for Corey.
167 reviews23 followers
June 8, 2019
I won this from First Reads giveaways, the Movie Tie In edition, a couple years ago and finally got around to reading it!

I really enjoyed this one, but it is a biography, which means its not the most terribly exciting story ever. However having said this, it was informative and interesting, and I felt I got a good idea of what kind of guy Dalton Trumbo was.

This book really makes me want to watch the movie, and possibly learn more about Trumbo, not to mention want to know more about the era of the blacklist and McCarthy going nuts. One of my favorite movies is Good Night, and Good Luck about Edward R. Murrow, and his fight with McCarthy. 'Trumbo' makes me want to know even more about that era. It was a very sad time for our country, our world, and I feel I need to understand it better. Bruce Cook did a good job informing me about another side of that time period I wasn't already familiar with.
Profile Image for Bradley Noell.
219 reviews12 followers
July 2, 2021
A fascinating biography of the man who stood up to a corrupt system intent on destroying the careers of those they deemed 'enemies of the state'. The book is well written and interesting enough on it's own, but the story of Dalton Trumbo is one of a kind. The fastest screen writer in Hollywood, loving husband and father, Communist, a man who stood up to a system that was stepping far outside of what it had a right to do. Even if you don't know who the man was, this biography on him is worth reading to learn. Maybe especially if you don't know who he was or about the Hollywood Blacklist. In a time when most people were scrambling to save themselves, Trumbo refused to bow to injustice or to sacrifice others to save himself, and he suffered the consequences. This book is many things at once; disturbing and inspirational, dark at times but funny at others, historical and somehow deeply topical. It's not a terribly long read and worth everyone's time.
Profile Image for Johnnie.
395 reviews8 followers
February 15, 2017
The technical detail here makes this a tedious read in portions. However, the details are very necessary since Trumbo's life loops and twists and returns to people he knew twenty or thirty years before. Many of his stories lay open-ended for years. Much of his intent and the intent of those who tried to help or hurt him were unknown until after the Black List of Hollywood Writers was broken. Much of the historical importance is documented well. There are only a few references to this being a cautionary tale of what we need to be careful of in American politics now. Excellent work of interpreting history. Interviews of all the main characters were documented well. When the author did not have an accurate source he spells out how he pieced the ideas together in case the reader wanted to do some investigation of her own.
287 reviews8 followers
October 17, 2017
This is the 1977 biography of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, the most famous of the "Hollywood Ten" who made headlines in the late 40's and early 50's for refusing to name names or admit to being communists when called to testify before congress, which was the basis of the film Trumbo.

The book was an interesting look at the blacklist and the people involved. The author, Bruce Cook, interviewed almost all of the principal people affected. He also had access to Trumbo and unrestricted access to his papers. However, it's clear that the author greatly admired Trumbo and that gives the book a hagiographic feel at times as the author tends to excuse Trumbo's faults where he points them out. On the whole though, I think he tried to be objective and the book did make me what to check out the film.
Profile Image for Shanelle Vassell.
11 reviews2 followers
June 7, 2019
This book is an honest biography of Dalton's life, complete with a number of details and interviews.

I enjoyed reading the book, but found the references to be thick and over saturated. A number of directors, actors and affiliates are casually introduced only to be never mentioned in the story again. Perhaps, because of my age, this littering of names was actually an attempt to showcase the spread of Dalton's success. But the names are, for the most part, unrecognizable for me.

I appreciated the writing style, and the way the author introduced his interviewee's and their relationship to Trumbo. Overall, Cook is reverential and transparent. Cook's language is consuming and yet digestible enough to make anyone want to read more.
Profile Image for Carol Chapin.
520 reviews7 followers
October 18, 2019
This was the story of Dalton Trumbo, one of the "Hollywood Ten" who were blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1947. Trumbo was the first to come off the blacklist, in 1960. I was impressed by Trumbo's ability to write prolifically - a trait that made him invaluable as a screenwriter, as he could write scripts rapidly and make changes on the fly. His most famous novel, "Johnny Got his Gun" looks very worth reading. I was also impressed by his ability to deal with the lot dealt him: after being blacklisted, he wrote scripts under other names/ fronts, but didn't complain about the drastically reduced income. He seemed to just carry on. Perhaps that's how he wrote so rapidly.
Profile Image for Darla Ebert.
750 reviews3 followers
February 11, 2022
A distasteful subject but one about which I felt compelled to read mainly for the time period and the fact that the entertainment industry is nothing like it once was. And what it once was, or had, was a semblance of decency, pseudo-morality and patriotism. Trumbo's life itself was not all that impressive. For some reason he felt the need to become a communist/socialist and to foist his ideas on others. Where is the House Un-American committee now? We need it now more than ever, along with the morality code we lost somewhere along the way, and after it had been watered down and so many compensations made that we did an about-face before anyone fully realized it.
The story is sad in its inevitable conclusion which was, just wait and you'll see it all change for the worse.
505 reviews
July 31, 2019
Since I love movies, I'm also interested in the workings of the industry. I knew a little about "the Blacklist", but not a lot about Trumbo's part. So, before seeing the movie, starring Bryan Cranston, I wanted to read the book upon which it is based. Quite a bit of information is thrown at you from all directions. While I think the author meant it to be chronological, there's so much back and forth, that at times, it was hard to follow. He relies on his notes from interviews and original source material. I learned quite a bit, but it took a few months of going back to the book, a chapter at a time, because it was a slow read. Here's hoping that the movie is better...
Profile Image for Adriano Barone.
Author 33 books31 followers
October 26, 2020
"Penso a quanto dobbiamo essere messi male, se un uomo è considerato dotato di onore semplicemente perché non è una merda."
Tolta la storicizzazione e la personalizzazione di quanto accaduto a Trumbo, è la straordinaria storia di uno scrittore a cui fu impedito di scrivere e che come reazione (e necessità, anche economica), scrive ancora di più.
Naturalmente c'è molto altro (come il fatto che le capacità di scrittura, se servono a mantenere te e una famiglia, non sempre vanno in una direzione per cui i posteri possano annuire saputi, ma vanno nella direzione che ti fa guadagnare più denaro), ma se c'è una vita che può diventare metafora, è quella di Dalton Trumbo.
Profile Image for Cheyenne.
519 reviews43 followers
December 4, 2018
If I went in to this review trying to be overly intellectual I would do horribly and do the book no justice. So I will instead write a simple one.

I bought this book on a whim. It was a dollar, and I was interested in seeing the movie because I like Bryan Cranston.

I have still not seen the movie, but after reading this book, I want to see it all the more because of Dalton Trumbo.

I am sad that more people have not read this book, and political views aside, Trumbo seemed like a decent fellow.
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