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FDR's Deadly Secret Hardcover – January 5, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the lurid title, this is a superior addition to the diseases-of-famous-men genre. Journalist Fettmann and neurologist Lomazow assert that they've discovered the true cause of FDR's 1945 death, building on a 1979 medical paper by Dr. Harry Goldsmith and revelations in the 1995 publication of the diary of FDR's cousin Daisy Suckley. A lifetime smoker, Roosevelt suffered from extremely high blood pressure. In 1944, a cardiologist found him in severe heart failure. Although historians blame these for his fatal stroke at the age of 63, the authors point out that photographs show a dark spot over his left eyebrow that grew throughout the 1930s. Experts nowadays agree it resembles a melanoma, a highly malignant skin cancer that often spreads to the brain. Metastatic cancer, not heart disease, may have produced the increasing frailty, weight loss, and confusion that alarmed observers during his final year. We will never know the truth, but the authors make a reasonable case. As a bonus, they recount Roosevelt's numerous medical problems and questionable care at the hands of a personal physician who relentlessly assured the public of the president's excellent health and possibly destroyed FDR's medical records after his death. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


David Margolick, author ofBeyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink
“Anyone reading this fascinating and disturbing book will have to reassess Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose insistence on remaining president despite an arsenal of illnesses subjected his country to grave danger in the most perilous of times. FDR’s Deadly Secret makes us wonder how much different history would be had Roosevelt been healthy, and how catastrophic a turn it nearly took because he was not. Scientifically and politically savvy (and suspenseful!), it offers a highly original take on epochal events.”

“[An] astounding argument…If Lomazow and Fettman are right, Republican Thomas E. Dewey or a different Democrat should have been elected president in 1944. In that case, Harry S. Truman, FDR's vice president, would almost certainly not have been commander-in-chief from 1945 to 1952. The Cold War and subsequent American history might have taken a very different path.”

Library Journal
“Unlike most conspiracy buffs, the authors are objective enough to admit that their thesis is…Regardless, their book is readable and interesting and should appeal to both specialists and the general public.”

Washington Times
“a valuable contribution to presidential history”

The Boston Globe
“The authors present their material in an engaging, though not sensationalistic manner. As a result, “FDR’s Deadly Secret’’ will find a wide following among those interested in one of American history’s most compelling medical mysteries.””

“Neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettmann… are the first to crack wide open the secrecy that has shrouded Roosevelt’s health until now”

Palm Beach Post
"Well-told ... The authors make a good case for their thesis ... Lomazow and Fettmann have gone as deeply into the medical evidence as is possible, and produced a convincing sidelight to history."

Irish Times
FDR’s Deadly Secret is about one man and his myriad health problems. It is about the obsessive secrecy designed to keep the nature and extent of his illnesses away from public scrutiny… This is a fascinating medical detective story.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487447
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In today's world if the president has a hangnail, I'm sure that a reporter will note it and within seconds the information will be all over the world and a topic of discussion on CNN, Fox News, Twitter, Facebook and every other medium of communication on the face of the earth. When Pres Obama and the French President glanced at a woman's butt as she walked by, it made national news!

Such was clearly not the case in the age of FDR. Here was a president who could go and spend a day with his former mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherford in her Aiken, S.C. home and make trips to doctors and hospitals without the item being news worthy. Contemporary Americans find it hard to believe that the vast majority of Americans and the world did not know that FDR was bound to his wheelchair, a secret that was maintained through the cooperation of the media who never photographed him in his wheelchair or getting in and out of a vehicle. Even in the 1960's it's hard to imagine that the relationships that JFK had - which I believe were somewhat exagerated now - but none the less existed to some extent went without media coverage. Today the guest list at the White House is always known. Every move the president makes seems like news. In the "good old days" politicians, candidates and other public figures got by with a lot until Gary Harte got caught on his boat. In our age of paparazzi news coverage, the age of FDR seems much like the stone age.

FDR was only 62 at the time of his death, but from the accounts in this book, he had the body of a man 30 years his senior with numerous health issues. It is surprising to find out his real age at time of death, because most people having only known him from his pictures assume that he was much older.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a physician, I bought this because one author is a neurologist, and I thus expected a sound medical orientation. Alas, the neurologist knows little about medicine in the 1940s, and less about oncology. The book is a hash of idle speculation and medical ignorance, with a tedious fixation on 'coverups' by FDRs docs, as if doctor-patient confidentiality should have been ignored. Much effort was expended to bulk up the book with tiresome repetitive retelling of a few relevant facts.
Two thumbs down.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm surprised a publisher like Public Affairs would put out a book with such poor scholarship and sloppy editing as this one. It's the kind of thing I expect from Regnery Publishing. I immediately spotted an error to the effect that Franklin Roosevelt's 1944 acceptance speech (which was delivered via radio while he was aboard a train) was the first time he had not appeared at the Democratic National Convention to accept the nomination personally. Not true. He accepted the 1940 nomination via an address from the White House. (By the way, it was FDR who began the tradition of the nominee accepting his nomination at the convention.)

The thesis of the book is that Roosevelt was in much worse shape for longer in his presidency than has ever been revealed publicly. This has been raised in the media before. In 1979, a doctor named Harry Goldsmith postulated that FDR may have had malignant melanoma. This is based on photographs of FDR showing a dark spot over his left eye that appeared in the late-1920s, slowly grew, then mysteriously disappeared in 1942. The authors pick up on this, further theorizing that, by the time of his death, FDR's (unproven) melanoma had metastasized into stomach and brain cancer. The authors state that it was stomach cancer which caused FDR's weight loss in 1944, and that several incidents when the President seemed "out of it" were seizures caused by brain cancer.

The book's preface is illustrative of the flaws in the authors' work. It recounts FDR's address to the Congress after his return from the Yalta conference in 1945. There were a large number of verbal stumbles in that speech. The authors state that, based on the location of the text in his reading copy of the speech, FDR was having trouble with visual acuity in his left eye.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book for two reasons. I am possibly one of the oldest long-surviving Melanoma Patients in the US -- Last month it was forty years since my diagnosis with 3rd stage Melanoma, and next month it will be 40 years since I began my "adventure" as a Clinical Research Subject, testing a particular Chemotherapy approach to the disease. I am now in my 70's, and have had no reoccurance since 1970. But since that time I have paid much attention to ongoing research both clinical and epidemiological. Ironically, I was treated at the University of Minnesota Hospitals, the same place where Dr. Lomazow trained.

What I miss in the book is a clear foundational exposition of what Medical Scientists thinks they know about this highly erratic and unpredictable disease today. If we are to find credible the hypothesis that FDR was afflicted with Melanoma, we need to know much more about the disease as it is understood today. Today, much of the research is focused on cell mutations, the propensity of some individuals to have and sustain mutations, of others to reject them at the celluar level. Much current research is focused on the genetic and broadly environmental triggers and of course, whether manipulation of these has potential clinical value. Of course none of this was around 40 years ago, and it certainly wasn't available during FDR's lifetime -- but a foundational exposition would be a huge assist in evaluation of the hypothesis.

Melanoma is not a disease common among dark skinned persons. It occurs among Northern European origin groups, Eastern Europeans, Scandinavians, Germans and yes, the Dutch -- and it follows their migration patterns.
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