Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: A Conversation between Deborah Cohen and Adam Tooze
Join acclaimed historians Deborah Cohen and Adam Tooze in a conversation about Last Call at the Hotel Imperial. Hailed by the New Yorker as “effervescent,” Cohen’s recent book explores a globe-trotting set of interwar American reporters who raised the alarm about the rise of fascism and rewrote the rules of journalism along the way.
Last Call at the Hotel Imperial is the extraordinary story of John Gunther, H. R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson. In those tumultuous years, they landed exclusive interviews with Hitler and Mussolini, Nehru and Gandhi, and helped shape what Americans knew about the world. Alongside these backstage glimpses into the halls of power, they left another equally incredible set of records. Living in the heady afterglow of Freud, they subjected themselves to frank, critical scrutiny and argued about love, war, sex, death, and everything in between.
Plunged into successive global crises, Gunther, Knickerbocker, Sheean, and Thompson could no longer separate themselves from the turmoil that surrounded them. To tell that story, they broke long-standing taboos. From their circle came not just the first modern account of illness in Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud—a memoir about his son’s death from cancer—but the first no-holds-barred chronicle of a marriage: Sheean’s Dorothy and Red, about Thompson’s fractious relationship with Sinclair Lewis.
Told with the immediacy of a conversation overheard, this revelatory book captures how the global upheavals of the twentieth century felt up close.
Deborah Cohen is the Richard W. Leopold Professor of History at Northwestern University. In addition to Last Call at the Hotel Imperial (Random House, 2022), she’s the author of The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914-1939 (University of California Press, 2001), Household Gods: The British and their Possessions (Yale University Press, 2006), and Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain (Oxford University Press, 2013). Her books have been awarded the Forkosch, Sharlin and Stansky prizes, and she’s held fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, the ACLS, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Cohen writes regularly for the Atlantic on subjects ranging from war photography to punk rock.
Adam Tooze is the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History at Columbia University, where he is also the Director of the European Institute and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. In 2019, Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the top Global Thinkers of the decade. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy (Penguin, 2021), Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (Viking, 2018), which won the Lionel Gelber Prize, and The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Viking, 2014).
Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She specializes in nineteenth-century British and French culture. Her scholarship analyzes the cultural assignment of value in domains as diverse as architecture, social relationships, literary criticism, and performance culture. Marcus is the author of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (University of California Press, 1999, Between Women: Marriage, Desire, and Friendship in Victorian England (Princeton University Press, 2007), and The Drama of Celebrity (Princeton University Press, 2019).
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