By Bryant Simon.
As I read Beverly Gage’s engaging, smart, insightful, and crisply written new book, I couldn’t stop thinking about J. Anthony Lukas. Before he took his own life in 1997, Lukas stood tall as one of the nation’s preeminent historians. Trained as a journalist, with apprenticeships at the Baltimore Sun and New York Times, he wrote sprawling, dramatic stories for a wide, yet still well-informed audience. He wrote epic tales built around fully fleshed-out characters, both the famous and the not-so-famous. The men and women that interested him the most typically found themselves embroiled in and affected by revealing and explosively violent moments: the death of a troubled New England socialite lost in the darkness of the counterculture, the vicious opposition to busing in Boston, and the 1905 murder of an Idaho governor.