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The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 9, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

Bestselling historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Tulane University, lived through the destruction of Hurricane Katrina with his fellow New Orleans residents, and now in The Great Deluge he has written one of the first complete accounts of that harrowing week, which sorts out the bewildering events of the storm and its aftermath, telling the stories of unsung heroes and incompetent officials alike. Get a sample of his story--and clarify your own memories--by looking through the detailed timeline he has put together of the preparation, the hurricane, and the response to one of the worst disasters in American history.

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Brinkley (Tour of Duty, etc.) opens his detailed examination of the awful events that took place on the Gulf Coast late last summer by describing how a New Orleans animal shelter began evacuating its charges at the first notice of the impending storm. The Louisiana SPCA, Brinkley none too coyly points out, was better prepared for Katrina than the city of New Orleans. It's groups like the SPCA, as well as compassionate citizens who used their own resources to help others, whom Brinkley hails as heroes in his heavy, powerful account"and, unsurprisingly, authorities like Mayor Ray Nagin, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former FEMA director Michael C. Brown whom he lambastes most fiercely. The book covers August 27 through September 3, 2005, and uses multiple narrative threads, an effect that is disorienting but appropriate for a book chronicling the helter-skelter environment of much of New Orleans once the storm had passed, the levees had been breached, and the city was awash in "toxic gumbo." Naturally outraged at the damage wrought by the storm and worsened by the ill-prepared authorities, Brinkley, a New Orleans resident, is generally levelheaded, even when reporting on Brown's shallow e-mails to friends while "the trapped were dying" or recounting heretofore unreported atrocities, such as looters defecating on property as a mark of empowerment. Photos. (May)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061124230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061124235
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Douglas Brinkley is currently a Professor of History at Rice University and a Fellow at the James Baker III Institute of Public Policy. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year at the U.S. Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. While a professor at Hofstra University, Dr. Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course, in which he took students on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met seminal figures in politics and literature. Dr. Brinkley's 1994 book, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey chronicled his first experience teaching this innovative on-the-road class which became the progenitor to C-SPAN's Yellow School Bus.

Five of Dr. Brinkley's books have been selected as New York Times "Notable Books of the Year": Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years(1992), Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, with Townsend Hoopes (1992), The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House (1998), Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress (2003), and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006).

Five of his most recent publications have become New York Times best-sellers: The Reagan Diaries, (2007), The Great Deluge (2006), The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion (2005), Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004) and Voices of Valor: D-Day: June 6, 1944 with Ronald J. Drez (2004). The Great Deluge (2006), was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book award.

Before coming to Rice, Dr. Brinkley served as Professor of History and Director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. From 1994 until 2005 he was Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. During his tenure there he wrote two books with the late Professor Ambrose: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (1997) and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002). On the literary front, Dr. Brinkley has edited Jack Kerouac's diaries, Hunter S. Thompson's letters and Theodore Dreiser's travelogue. His work on civil rights includes Rosa Parks (2000) and the forthcoming Portable Civil Rights Reader.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Award for The American Heritage History of the United States (1998) and the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Driven Patriot (1993). He was awarded the Business Week Book of the Year Award for Wheels for the World and was also named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dr. Brinkley is contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Club. In a recent profile, the Chicago Tribune deemed him "America's new past master."

Forthcoming publications include The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America and a biography of Walter Cronkite.

He lives in Austin and Houston, Texas with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Tim Janson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast" certainly pulls no punches in its across the board criticism of all concerned parties. While most at the time turned this into a societal battle of rich vs. poor, white vs. black, Author Douglas Brinkley has more than enough ammunition to aim at President Bush, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, Mayor Ray Nagin, and Governor Blanco. In fact a war of words has erupted between Brinkley and Nagin in light of some of the comments Brinkley makes about Nagin.

Some of Brinkleys accounts needlessly border on the melodramatic. There was no extra drama that needed to be added to the actual and factual accounts of what happened to New Orleans. The human tragedy speaks for itself. Readers will experience many layers of feelings as they read the book. You'll shed tears over the loss of life, be angered by the poor response from all factions, and rejoice in the triumph of spirit in how the people endured, and how hard rescuers worked.

Brinkley successfully avoids falling into politicizing this disaster and no one who reads the book thoughtfully can accuse him of having an agenda other than wanting to tell the true story. Thankfully he is smart enough to let so many of those directly involved...the survivors...and the rescuers...tell their own stories. The various running narratives, and 700 plus pages can make it a bit of a chore at times to follow but this is a story that needed to be told and told truthfully.
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Rue on May 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have been filming a documentary regarding Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath entitled "New Orleans Story." We interviewed Mr. Brinkley when he was writing his very first chapter of The Great Deluge. Douglas was very engaged in the investagative process and was eager to learn all that we had discovered and were discovering during our one on one interviews with key players to this historical disaster. We also interviewed Douglas Brinkley a few days before he released his book to the public.

Having now read the book, I must verify through our own on-camera interviews with many of the same individucals (such as Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, former Fema Director Michael Brown), that Douglas' reported accounts have merit. The information was taken directly from those who were in the best position to opine. Yes it is true that others have different perspectives, but we have yet to see any evidence that dispute the accruracy of the content of The Great Deluge.

As a fellow New Orleanian who also worked to chronical the events in as much of a contemporaneous manner as possible, I wish to congradulate Douglas Brinkley on his efforts. I further strongly recommend The Great Deluge.
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55 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Steven Wilkerson on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Speaking as a first reponder who has witnessed many of these events personally, I must say that no other individual has shed more light on the true events following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as historian Douglas Brinkley.

Cutting through the governmental cover-ups, deception and lies, Brinkley gets to the heart of the matter in this refreshingly honest and straight forward account of what was really happening at the time. Brinkley allows the reader to share the human ordeals of the true heroes as he recounts the personal experiences of Coast Guard and Wildlife & Fisheries personnel, and citizen first responders. These are their stories as seen through their eyes and told in their own words.

Unafraid to hold accountable those still in power, The Great Deluge allows the reader to escape the masterful spin of FEMA and The Bush Administration as well as attempts to hide Ray Nagin's mental breakdown during the Cresent City's most crucial hours.

Thank-you, Mr. Brinkley. You have given your city, country, and state one of the greatest gifts they could receive, the truth.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A. Courie on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Douglas Brinkley's "The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast" is an excellent, but flawed, telling of the Hurricane Katrina story. Brinkley, a New Orleans resident, wrote this book in the months following the storm. He weaves first-person accounts into this long book (over 600 pages) and freely adds analysis - and blame - into his story.

Brinkley's story is based primarily on contemporary media accounts of the hurricane and its aftermath. Some of his more in-depth stories, though, are based on extensive interviews that he conducted with many of the survivors. Although billed as the story of "New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast," this book focuses almost exclusively on New Orleans, especially during the days after Katrina - a "flaw" Brinkley freely admits. There are of course many stories of terror as people rode out the storm or the unexpected flooding following the storm. Brinkley tells how groups of individual citizens - groups such as the "NOLA Homeboys" and the "Cajun Navy," responded immediately to the flooding in New Orleans and began saving people. He tells the personal stories of the impoverished, of doctors, and even of Fats Domino. Brinkley also extols the many corporations that helped with the rescues and recovery efforts, from the local Acadian Ambulance Company that helped rescue hundreds of flood victims to companies like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and others that not only contributed millions in immediate aid but guaranteed paychecks (and even provided housing) for their displaced employees.

Brinkley also spent a great deal of effort analyzing what happened and why it did.
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