Fifties Bibliography, 1948-1963

copyright 1998 by Historical Novelists Center

We cannot possibly list all three thousand biographies and autobiographies of movie stars and other entertainment personalities of this period. On any big star, like Elvis, try to find three lap-breakers which don't list each other in their bibliographies -- and do have bibliographies. Otherwise, read at least one known hostile and one known adoring memoir by intimates and colleagues.

If you have read a good history of the Korean War lately, or even if you remember the bibliographic data, please let us know about it!

Search for Books at
Search by:

Alsberg, Henry G., editor

The American Guide: A Source Book and Complete Travel Guide for the United States *****!
Hastings House, NY, 1949; 1348 pgs, index, bibliography
The first all-States travel guide after WW2. There are lots of old and settled highways and towns that didn't exist back then. Any regional guides to points of interest should also be collected assiduously. T2

Deacon, Richard

The French Secret Service ***
Grafton Books, London, 1990; 363 pgs, index, bibliography
Beginning with the Cabinet Noir of Richelieu, this book traces French intelligence services through the scandal of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. The chapters for this period are interesting but not fascinating, though they may have just what you needed to know for your adventure or mystery thriller. T1

Essex, K. & J. L. Swqnson

Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend ****
General Publishing Group, 1996
500 photos of the infamous/famous model, who brought new class to fetish. T3

Frank, Pat

Alas, Babylon ****
J. B. Lippincott, NY, 1959; novel
We rarely recommend fiction as a source of information, but this is a SF classic people will discuss because it discusses surviving a nuclear war in non-spectacular terms -- organizing, getting food, being real humans rather than going 'Road Warrior.' Also valuable because the the norms of behavior it shows. All around, a superior book to most others.

Goldman, Eric F.

The Crucial Decade -- and After: America 1945-1960 *****!
Vintage Books, a div. of Random House, NY, 1960; 368 pgs, index, no bibliography
Very well-written and readable history of the time, perfect to get you grounded. This is an expansion of a 1956 book, and some of the later stuff is only half-digested, like all histories written too soon after the events, but it is an inhabitant's view, not an historian's, which you may find the more valuable. Great coverage of McCarthyism. T1

Gunnel, John A., editor

Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975 ****
Iola, Wisconsin; Krause Publications, 1982
From the editors of 'Old Cars' magazine, this tells you *everything*, from price to paintjobs, not excluding motor or convenience options. In the age of the auto, your choice of cars can say as much as your clothes. This gives you a great selection. T3

Hersh, Seymour M.

The Dark Side of Camelot ****
Little, Brown, Publishers
This is a perfectly-titled compendium of all the dirt on JFK. T2

Hingley, Ronald

The Russian Secret Police ****
Dorset Press, NY, 1970; 313 pgs, index, bibliography
While tracing this from the Opichnina of Ivan the Terrible forward, you will want Ch. 11 "Beria and the MVD/MGB (1945-1953)" pgs 202-223, and Ch. 12 "The KGB Under Khruschev (1954-1964" pgs 224-245. Especially useful for the operations on foreign soil. T2

Hopkins, Harry

The New Look: A Social History of the Forties and Fifties in Britain ****
Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1964
From the demob adjustments after the War, through the Festival of Britain, the change in education, work, sexual attitudes, the development of tabloids and the BBC -- just everything of interest through 1959. T2

Hopkins, Jerry

The Rock Story ***
Signet Books, NY, 1970; 222 pgs, no index, no bibliography, but a discography of music mentioned in each chapter.
A history of rock and roll in the first half of the book, by one of the music establishment to whom of course anything black is cool and anything too popular is suspect. Gets most of his facts right in this section, but we have heard complaints about the accuracy of the later stuff by people who knew the Haightbury scene. T1

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
Provides personal and family names for almost any ethnic group you care to cover. T1

Keene, M. Lamar

The Psychic Mafia *****!
Dell Publishing, NY, 1976; 173 pgs, no index, bibliography worth the price of the book
An expose' of the Spiritualist Churches (now largely replaced by "channeling" -- same business, different name) by one of the former top names who joined as a sincere believer in the middle '50s and was a consciously fraudulent medium by 1959. Wonderful source. T2

Macdonald, Peter

Soldiers of Fortune: The Twentieth Century Mercenary ***
Multimedia Publicatins Ltd., UK, 1986; Gallery Books, NY, 1986; 192 pgs, index, no bibliography
Picture-heavy book, useful for the "Britain's 'small wars'" chapter, pgs. 42-69, as well as the first part of "The 'wind of change' wars" chapter beginning on pg. 70. These are largely the anti-colonial wars of the period, as various countries fought free of their European masters who they thought were dragging their feet on independence, or in some cases ignoring it. T1

McDarrah, Fred W. & Gloria S.

Beat Generation: Glory Days in Greenwich Village *****!
Absolutely necessary. Even where there were no beatniks, these parents of the hippy movement were present in the minds of most Americans as a little-understood, attractive/repellent group of rebels in the land of the free that was mired in heavy-duty conformity. Lots and lots of photos. T1

Melton, H. Keith

CIA Special Weapons & Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War *****!
Sterling Publishing Co., NY, 1993; 128 pgs, index, bibliography
Invaluable catalog of real spy goodies, but also for its brief history of the CIA, and even an appendix of ID cards, credentials, and badges. T2 -- T1 if you know you are doing spies.

Miller, Nathan

Spying for America: The Hidden History of US Intelligence ***
Paragon House, NY, 1989; 482 pgs, index, bibliography
Probably at its strongest in this period, covering both sides of the Cold War in America. T1

National Geographic, the editors of

The Complete National Geographic; 103 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM ****
National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 1991
Three discs cover exploration, research, and all the period ads. T1

Packard, Vance

The Status Seekers *****!
David McKay Co., Inc., NY, 1959; index, reference notes
Wonderful compilation and interpretation of studies of the many classes of the "classless society" and their differing views on many subjects; also on the new class lines developing. One of the best windows into the heads of people in this period. T1

Pearce, Christopher

Fifties Sourcebook **
Chartwell Books, Seacaucus, NJ, 1990; 196 pgs, index, no bibliography
All sources of the book are British, which is nice if you're tired of the US, with some covers from French magazines too. A picture book without much meat, it will give you a visual hors d'oevre, but not a meal. Good as the missing illustrations to The New Look. Together, they're a pretty good book. T3

Perret, Geoffrey

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur *****!
Excellent recent detail biography of the man who wanted to be President, and was accused by some of setting up his own private fief in Asia. T3

Rainwater, Coleman, and Handel

Workingman's Wife ****
McFadden, NY, 1962; 265 pgs, index, no bibliography
Designed for marketing to blue-collar women of the time, it is extremely revealing of their lives and attitudes, especially with the occasional stop to contrast them with the more familiar white-collar clubwomen. T2

Thompson, Hunter S.

Hells's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs *****!
Random House, NY, 1966; no index, no bibliography
Most of this was researched by hanging out with the Angels so the lack of biblio is no surprise. The newspaper or magazine reports used are well-identified in the text. Very accurate, very fair, no punches pulled, especially about the high level of misreportage. T3

Velikovsky, Immanuell

Worlds in Collision ***
Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1950
Velikovsky's challenge to uniformitarianism and gradualism in astronomy and geology was so witch-hunted by traditional academicians -- who did not read the evidence in the books, but based their objections on publisher's compact descriptions -- that his works could often only be found with the fringies, hollow-earthers and saucerites. The fact that he was of Russian-Jewish birth would of course have no bearing on his treatment in the McCarthy era, when Jews were excluded from private schools and country clubs. However, his concepts of neo-catastrophism, if not precise interpretations, are slowly conquering in the physical sciences. T3

see also:

Ages In Chaos , 1952 Earth in Upheaval , 1955 Oedipus and Akhnaton, 1960 Peoples of the Sea , 1977 (his best)

Search for Books at
Search by:

Back to Times and Places