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Eugene Burdick Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Ninth Wave (1956)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Ugly American (With: William J. Lederer) (1958)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sarkhan (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
Fail-Safe (With: Harvey Wheeler) (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The 480 (1964)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ninas Book (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Role in Manila (1966)Description / Buy at Amazon
American Voting Behavior (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Blue of Capricorn (1987)Description / Buy at Amazon

Eugene Burdick was a popular American author that wrote novels which challenged his country’s notion of politics, war, and foreign intervention. Eugene is best known for works like ‘The Ugly American’.

Eugene Burdick was born in Sheldon, Iowa in 1918. His parents were Jack Burdick and Marie Ellerbroek.

The author eventually garnered a reputation for his work as a novelist and a political scientist, and his impact ranged far and wide. However, it wasn’t always obvious that Eugene would take America’s social, political, and literary landscape by storm.

As a child, he spent a few years in Los Angeles. His resume included stints at Stanford University. When the Second World War came, Eugene wasn’t spared, eventually finding a place in the Navy and doing his part to keep his country safe.

It wasn’t until he left the military, though, that his career began to take off. While his efforts at Oxford University (which earned him the Rhodes Scholar accolade) were quite impressive, Eugene would probably trace his later success to ‘Rest Camp on Maui’, a short story he wrote and published in Harper’s Magazine.

The author spent some time at the University of California in the Political Science Department, and that was definitely an honor. But Eugene’s first notable short story always stands out starkly amongst his early achievements because ‘Rest Camp on Maui’ attracted so much national attention.

The story not only earned Eugene Burdick a nod from the O. Henry Award but it paved the way for the author’s publishing career. By 1956, Eugene had published ‘The Ninth Wave’, his first novel which proved to his readers that ‘Rest Camp on Maui’ was far from a fluke and that they could look forward to so many more intriguing and engaging works from his person down the line.

Most of the author’s fans consider ‘The Ugly American’ to be his most ambitious work. The book cast a spotlight on the United States’ efforts to bring about social change in Southeast Asia.

The novel was a critical and commercial hit that had wide-ranging implications on America’s diplomatic circles. ‘The Ugly American’ wasn’t the last time Eugene Burdick poked and prodded his country’s internal and external political efforts.

For all his achievements, many avid readers and political enthusiasts have expressed confusion over the obscurity of Eugene Burdick’s works. The author died of a heart attack in 1965. He was only 46 at the time and in the years and decades that followed his death, his works faded from the public conscious.

This was a man whose contributions to the political science department set the United States alight; a man that befriended famous figures like Marlon Brando. An author who elicited so much controversy because of his avid support for America’s military intervention in Vietnam; his books were powerful commentaries that some believe initiated political change.

And yet none of his achievements could keep Eugene from fading into obscurity, his beliefs, philosophies, and ideals many of which boasted contemporary relevance having gone unexplored in the period that followed his passing.

Eugene Burdick had the pleasure of seeing some of his books receive movie adaptation. ‘The Ugly American’ was turned into a 1963 movie that featured Marlon Brando. Hollywood professionals generally considered it to be a critical and financial failure.

Fail-Safe came out a year later, the movie having been adapted from a novel of the same name. Featuring Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau, the movie and the book both encountered controversy when comparisons with another property, ‘Red Alert’, were highlighted.

+The Ugly American
This 1958 bestseller attempts to explore the arrogance and incompetence of Americans abroad. A journalist in the book notes that the Americans he meets within the confines of their native country are a unique creature.

Their mannerisms, their behavior, and their attitudes couldn’t be more different from those the journalist encounters when Americans move to a foreign country. For reasons he cannot comprehend, a boisterous pretentiousness comes over them and they eventually begin to do more harm than good.

This is most visible in Lou Sears, an American ambassador in a foreign nation who spends most of his days locked away in his country’s comfortable diplomatic compound. While the Soviet Ambassadors busies himself with learning the local language and assimilating into the local culture in the hopes that he can effect change, the American Ambassador keeps his people restrained with meetings and parties, and that has made America’s presence on the local scene largely nonexistent.

Even though this story is set in a fictional Southeast Asian nation called Sarkhan, Eugene Burdick makes an effort to make it feel like a real place with real people and an authentic culture.

While the Soviet and American ambassadors take center stage, ‘The Ugly American’ takes a generally broad view of the diplomatic service in Southeast Asia, exploring the differences between all the various political and military officers, and even the expatriates in Eugene’s fictional nation.

Some people think that the novel is analogous to the Vietnam War. Others believe that the book is a general commentary on America’s foreign policy.

A young American president is ready to talk to Premier Khrushchev of Russia. He doesn’t know that a disaster is brewing in the War Room at the Pentagon.

A group of nuclear-armed American bombers has begun to advance upon Moscow. And from what the secretary of defense and his aides can tell, their intentions are of a violent nature.

Clearly, a mistake has transpired. The Americans know this to be fact, but the Russians are not convinced. And if the situation isn’t remedied quickly, the world will be engulfed in war.

Fail-Safe uses the paranoia that gripped America in the period that it was written to create a tension-filled story in which years of mistrust between America and Russia are about to end in war.

While there is plenty of action, most of it plays out in war rooms and over the phone and around conference tables. The book has been criticized for being too preachy in its attempt to bring across an anti-technology and anti-war message.

Fail-Safe shares a lot of aspects with Peter George’s ‘Red Alert’, a fact that led to a lawsuit.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Eugene Burdick

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