Review: Bruce Cook – Dalton Trumbo (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977)

Dalton Trumbo was an American screenwriter. From 1947 to 1960, he was blacklisted from working in Hollywood for his membership of the Communist Party. His biography was adapted for the screen in 2015, directed by Jay Roach and starring Bryan Cranston. As a tie-in to the film, Two Roads Books re-issued the biography in the same year. 

More than Trumbo

The title of the book may suggest it’s all about Trumbo, but it feels like his story only makes up half of the content. The rest is a history lesson about the blacklist and how it affected the professionals and film releases during this era.

Some readers may say this is irrelevant. But luckily it’s so fascinating to read about and significant to Trumbo’s life. It never feels like the book is being ripped too far away from its source material which, intriguingly, is mostly first-hand interviews with the people who knew Trumbo.

Spoiler alert

The book has no problem generating the reader’s interest in Trumbo’s life and work, which includes the books and films he wrote. The repeated mentioning of these is sure to have readers making ‘to watch’ and ‘to read’ lists.

However, the plots of Trumbo’s books are often spoiled, and this is a little bit frustrating. Why do this when you’ve created curiosity for them? Revealing only the premise of each book could have had the exact same effect. But this is only a tiny irritation.   

Relevant and engaging

Dalton Trumbo is a worthwhile read, for anyone interested in film and political history. It’s part-biography, part-history lesson, but totally relevant and engaging.


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