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Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman Hardcover – April, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers; First Edition Thus edition (April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579124372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579124373
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Library Binding
When I first read "Plain Speaking" over 25 years ago, I immediately thought that it was one of the best and most entertaining political books I'd ever read. And if I had to rate "Plain Speaking" on the sheer delight you get from reading it, then I'd easily give it six stars instead of five. Unfortunately, research by several noted historians in 1995 at the Truman Library has revealed that at least some of Truman's statements in "Plain Speaking" were never spoken by Mr. Truman, but were entirely the products of Merle Miller's imagination. As a result, while "Plain Speaking" is still a wonderful read if you've got a few free hours, it is no longer taken as serious history by biographers and historians. "Plain Speaking" isn't a traditional, full-length biography of Truman, instead it is a brief "oral biography" of the man, presumably spoken in Truman's own words.

Merle Miller, a veteran journalist, visited the ex-President in 1962 and taped a series of interviews with him. His hope was that he could sell these interviews to a TV network. But when no network bought the rights, in 1974 Miller simply printed the interview transcripts and turned them into this bestselling book. Miller clearly admired Truman, and as a result his questions are often partisan and/or favorable - Miller's questions are of the softball variety. For example, in one question Miller asks Truman "Are they {the Republicans} just stupid?", and Truman gives a typically partisan response. Even so, many of Truman's replies to Miller's questions are delightfully blunt and laugh-out-loud funny: "I didn't fire General MacArthur because he was a dumb son-of-a-*****, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals...", etc.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a very good book. This book outlines how a man of very humble beginnings became the President of the United States. One of the more interesting parts was Truman's rise from a machine politician to a national figure. Also,I found amazing some of the historical roads that Truman had a role in traveling. His shaping of the world after World Wat II through the Marshall Plan was very readable. His role with Israel was also very noteable. His firing of General Mcarthur was laid out in great detail. I also liked reading his feelings and opinions about various political figures that we have come to know. Before this book I didn't have an opinion about Truman. After I read this book I became mightily impressed with Harry Truman. An excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't believe no one else has reviewed this book! I was exposed to it as a boy, read it first as a teenager, and have found myself re-reading it every few years since. It's not perfect -- what book is? -- but I think it's excellent.

Harry Truman was the sort of man that was rare in his own day, and perhaps rarer these days -- a man of integrity and discipline, a man uninterested in lying about anything for any reason, a man determined to do what was right even if not a single person on Earth agreed with him. For various reasons, though, many of the biographies of him fall short.

Merle Miller, by his own account, was no particular fan of Truman when he first met him. But he conducted many hours of taped interviews, in the interests of producing a never-aired television show about the Truman years, and seems to have gradually learned to appreciate the man.

The result is a book of interviews, mostly with Truman but also with friends, relatives, and associates (Dean Acheson among them), painting a bright and warm picture of a much-misunderstood President.

Miller acknowledges Truman's gaffes and faux pas when they arise, and does his best to put them in context. (He acknowledges Truman's casual racism by today's standards, typical of the day, for example -- but he also points out that it was Truman who took the bold step of integrating the U.S. armed forces. Truman even had the guts to do it in an election year!)

In addition to all else, I found this book an easy read, suitable for cuddling up with a blanket and a fire in the fireplace. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a review of the 1973 edition of this particular work; the one I have in my library.

Where to start? I first read this book when it was first published which of course was around very close to four decades ago. I reread this work recently; reading it through older eyes and in lieu of some facts that I was not aware of when it was first published.

First let me say that I am an amateur reader of biographies of President Truman. He has always been one of my presidential favorites. I also enjoyed this book during my first read and even my second read. This is not a traditional biography, but rather an oral history consisting of a number of interviews, recorded on tape, by the author with the president.

The book is delightful and is simply dripping with insightful gems as to Truman's thought process, attitudes and "takes" on historical events while we was president of the United States. I felt then and I feel now that this is an important book and one that most certainly be read by anyone interested in Truman. But alas, I have to tell you that my recent second reading of this work, while I enjoyed the book overall, was not as delightful as my first. Let me explain.

Since the publication of this work it has been found that the author, who died in 1986 has pretty well been discredited as has this particular work. Dr. Robert Ferrell in doing independent research for his own biography on Truman, discovered that Merle Miller had fabricated many of Truman's wonderfully "plain speaking" statements and sayings. Dr. Ferrell listened to and read the transcripts of the original interviews (Located in the Truman Library) and found that Miller has simply lied.
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