Annal: 1997 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1997.

Book:Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

Sam Tanenhaus

Whittaker Chambers is the first biography of this complex and enigmatic figure. Drawing on dozens of interviews and on materials from forty archives in the United States and abroad—including still-classified KGB dossiers—Tanenhaus traces the remarkable journey that led Chambers from a sleepy Long Island village to center stage in America’s greatest political trial and then, in his last years, to a unique role as the godfather of post-war conservatism. This biography is rich in startling new information about Chambers’s days as New York’s “hottest literary Bolshevik”; his years as a Communist agent and then defector, hunted by the KGB; his conversion to Quakerism; his secret sexual turmoil; his turbulent decade at Time magazine, where he rose from the obscurity of the book-review page to transform the magazine into an oracle of apocalyptic anti-Communism. But all this was a prelude to the memorable events that began in August 1948, when Chambers testified against Alger Hiss in the spy case that…[more]

Book:Bogart

Bogart

A.M. Sperber, Eric Lax

He was a top box-office draw in his day, an Oscar-winning actor, a principled man of rare conviction, and—long after his death—a cult figure revered by moviegoers who weren’t even born while he was making his movies. But over the years, Humphrey Bogart has remained an enigma, despite what we have learned of him from wife Lauren Bacall’s own fond memories and from the various biographies that have appeared over the years since his death in 1957.

With Bogart, this wonderful enigma is brought under the light as never before. Although authors Ann M. Sperber and Eric Lax never met, Bogart is a unique collaboration, combining the strengths of two prize-winning biographers. Sperber, the author of the New York Times best-selling Pulitzer-Prize finalist Murrow: His Life and Times (1986), spent seven years before her death in 1994 amassing a vast archive of original research on the life and times of Humphrey Bogart, including…[more]

Book:Burning the Days

Burning the Days: Recollection

James Salter

In this brilliant book of recollection, one of America’s finest writers re-creates people, places, and events spanning some fifty years, bringing to life an entire era through one man’s sensibility. Scenes of love and desire, friendship, ambition, life in foreign cities and New York, are unforgettably rendered here in the unique style for which James Salter is widely admired.

Burning the Days captures a singular life, beginning with a Manhattan boyhood and then, satisfying his father’s wishes, graduation from West Point, followed by service in the Air Force as a pilot. In some of the most evocative pages ever written about flying, Salter describes the exhilaration and terror of combat as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, scenes that are balanced by haunting pages of love and a young man’s passion for women.

After resigning from the Air Force, Salter begins a second life, becoming a writer in the New York of the 1960s. Soon…[more]

Book:Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life

Alan Schom

Filling a remarkable gap, Alan Schom, an acclaimed historian, scholar and author, offers the most complete picture ever of Napoleon Bonaparte, “the scourge of Europe” and France’s greatest hero. Based on more than 10 years of exhaustive research, Schom illuminates Napoleon’s important economic and social reforms, his reorganization of the French government and his tempestuous personal life and its effect on his political decisions. Remarkably ambitious and compulsively readable, Napoleon Bonaparte covers every aspect of l’Empereur’s life and career—from his childhood on Corsica to his dramatic rise to the throne of France; from his campaigns of conquest to his final crushing defeat at Waterloo and death in exile on St. Helena. A lively and accessible text, Schom’s book is generously illustrated with halftones and maps and features startling new insights about Napoleon’s key aides, ministers and generals. Schom portrays Napoleon with candor, exalting his ambition and undeniable genius, but…[more]

Book:Nazimova

Nazimova: A Biography

Gavin Lambert

A major rediscovery—a full-scale biography—of the electrifying Russian-born actress who brought Stanislavksy and Chekhov to American theatre, who was applauded, lionized, adored—a legend of the stage and screen for forty years, and then strangely forgotten. Her shockingly natural approach to acting transformed the theatre of her day. She thrilled Laurette Taylor.

The first time Tennessee Williams saw her he knew he wanted to be a playwright (“She was so shatteringly powerful that I couldn’t stay in my seat”). Eugene O’Neill said of her that she gave him his “first conception of a modern theatre.”

She introduced the American stage and its audience to Ibsen’s New Woman, a woman hell-bent on independence. It was a role Nazimova embodied offstage as well. When she toured in a repertory of A Doll’s House, The Master Builder, and Hedda Gabler from 1907 to 1910, she earned the then unheard-of sum of five million dollars for theatre manager Lee Shubert.…[more]

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