• Last Call at the Hotel Imperial

  • The Reporters Who Took On a World at War
  • By: Deborah Cohen
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 18 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • A prize-winning historian’s “effervescent” (The New Yorker) account of a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism

“High-speed, four-lane storytelling . . . Cohen’s all-action narrative bursts with colour and incident.”—Financial Times (Best Books of Summer)

They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles, sometimes gliding through countries in the splendor of a first-class sleeper car. While empires collapsed and fledgling democracies faltered, they chased deposed empresses, international financiers, and Balkan gun-runners, and then knocked back doubles late into the night. 

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.

©2022 Deborah Cohen (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“As effervescent, for more than four hundred pages, as its winsome and hyperactive characters, and it blends scholarly attention to ideas like psychoanalysis and Wilsonian liberal internationalism with novelistic renderings of these writers’ dizzying trajectories abroad.”The New Yorker

“As they follow Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Americans are getting an inkling of what it felt like eight decades ago when fascist dictators were on the brink of plunging Europe into war. . . . Back then the best source of news was an intrepid band of young American newspaper correspondents whose exclusive dispatches brought home word of the coming cataclysm. . . . [Ms. Cohen] takes their story to a new level with prodigious research and sparkling prose. The book is a model of its kind.”The Wall Street Journal

“Ambitious . . . a distressing, immersive recounting of how denial, passivity and pacification aided the rise of authoritarian regimes.”New York Times Book Review

What listeners say about Last Call at the Hotel Imperial

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  • 03-19-22

Is History Going To Repeat Itself

I recently saw this book come up on my list of new reads and purchased it. I have read other works of Dr. Cohen and truly appreciate her absolute attention to detail. Her new book takes place in the 1930’s with the rise of European war. The author’s pursuit to inform the reader of a pivotal yesteryear of history with the juxtaposition of four journalists’ lives and their writings is especially timely.. Who would have ever thought this book would come on the footsteps of a very scary current affairs nightmare we now find ourselves watching from afar? Bravo to the writer for her fortitude and autopsy of a time in history that surely we can learn from and may we remember all what journalists do to bring us the news of war risking their own safety. This is a must read.

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exceptional research great story

incredible information & highly recommend for anyone trying to understand today's geo-political world. We need the clarity today that was so important to these icons, and the passion needed to report on the autraucities and lies that FOX News spins in Russia's favor. The world has not moved past the issues debated and fought over in WWII.

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I returned this book

I found it boring. A lot of tiny details that kept the story from moving forward.

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Globetrotters

The globetrotting reporters in “Last Call at the Hotel Imperial” are fascinating—ambitious, aggressive, clever, hard-working and horny. As they travel through Europe and Asia in the 1920s and 1930s, they develop strong beliefs about their increasingly dangerous world. The best reporters in this book--John Gunther, Dorothy Thompson, Jimmy Sheean and HR Knickerbocker--manage to line up surprising interviews with leaders like Churchill, Mussolini, Hitler and Gandhi. They also create a new form of journalism, focusing on telling details and the quirks of their interview subjects. Deborah Cohen does an excellent job in selecting the anecdotes that illuminate the reporters’ thoughts and insecurities. She does not shy away from reporting on their frequent love affairs, sometimes with each other’s wives and girlfriends. The book follows their careers into the 1950s and later, as they gradually fade away.

Suzanne Toren is a favorite narrator. She narrates with clarity and feeling. Overall, this is an outstanding history.

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A remarkably powerful experience

Brilliantly researched and beautifully written. The narration is supremely wonderful and creates a 3-dimensional aspect to the characters and themes.

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Great reader makes all the difference

Text is very good and does an excellent job of bringing a cast of characters to life. The reader is exceptional!

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Last call at hotel Imperial

Boring boring boring reads like a school book if you like a lot of detail and no storyline just facts boring

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Awesome!

Wow, what an undertaking. This book went so quickly. It was like reading a novel. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend.