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Plain Speaking Mass Market Paperback – 1 Sep 1974


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Mass Market Paperback, 1 Sep 1974
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Berkley Books (1 Sept. 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425026647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425026649
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,233,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 April 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Plain Speaking" is a Truman biography with a different twist. Based on interviews of Truman by Merle Miller in preparation for an anticipated television series, it is expressed, largely, in Truman's own words. As such, it is as Truman saw himself and the world.
Arranged chronologically, the reader is taken through this remarkable life, the challenges Truman faced and his views on issues and personalities. On these pages we read Truman's uncensored opinions on MacArthur, Ike, Marshall and generals in general, Dean Atcheson, Richard Nixon, the presidency and a host of other topics. Here we learn his conviction that the U. S. has never had a crooked president and that "The only thing new is the history you don't know."
There are other, better, first biographies to learn the facts of Truman's life. Turn to "Plain Speaking" to meet Harry Truman.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. H. O'hara on 4 Jun. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This was bought for a gift but the receiver said its very good and the service as usual was excellent.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 49 reviews
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Highly Entertaining, and Highly Inaccurate 2 Sept. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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. Over the course of the book Truman bluntly critiques Eisenhower, Henry Wallace, Douglas MacArthur, and even John F. Kennedy (whom Truman dryly calls "the boy" and matter-of-factly claims had his 1960 nomination and election victory "bought" for him by his sinister father, Joseph Kennedy. It's safe to say that Truman was no admirer of the Kennedys, particularly JFK's father - when the Kennedys accused him of opposing JFK's nomination because he was a Roman Catholic, Truman quipped "I'm not against the Pope, I'm against the Pop!"). After reading this book, it's hard not to admire Truman and find him to be a refreshing change from the modern politician who calculates every word and lies constantly.

Unfortunately, it turns out that at least some of Truman's statements were fake - they were nothing more than figments of Merle Miller's imagination. In 1995 Dr. Robert Ferrell, an historian, was writing a biography of Truman. At the Truman Library he examined Miller's transcripts and tapes of his interviews with Truman, and discovered (much to his surprise) that many of Truman's statements in "Plain Speaking" were nowhere to be found in the transcripts or tapes. Dr. Ferrell did discover that in 1963, when Miller wanted to write a magazine article about his interviews with Truman, the former President wrote a letter to Miller in which he bluntly criticized Miller's "misstatements" in quoting him, and threatened a lawsuit if Miller had the article published (he didn't). In fact, Miller waited until nearly two years after Truman's death in 1972 to publish "Plain Speaking" - thus ensuring that Truman wasn't around to file a lawsuit or point out Miller's "misstatements." The simple fact that Miller ignored Truman's complaints and went ahead with this book's publication - and then presented himself as one of Truman's greatest admirers - leads me to give "Plain Speaking" no more than three stars. I suspect that Truman himself would be appalled at how Miller successfully portrayed this book as an accurate portrait of what he said in the interviews. "Plain Speaking" is a great read, but as accurate history it is sadly lacking, and the reader should always keep this in mind.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Historical Masterpeice 2 Jun. 2000
By Melvin Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
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.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
False quotations discredit fascinating account 29 Feb. 2000
By Geoff Pietsch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having just read another biography of Truman, I was reminded of Plain Speaking and of the newspaper articles a year or two ago which discredited this book. An historian actually checked out some of the most colorful quotations attributed to Truman by Miller and found Miller had either altered the real Truman statements or dressed them up to make them more colorful. The historian listened to Miller's own tapes - which are, as I recall, at the Truman Presidential library - and was astonished at what he found. He had no agenda to discredit Miller; he had initally simply wanted to hear Truman's voice making the statements and to also gather fuller context. So, while most of what Miller recorded is accurate, the intellectual dishonesty of manufacturing quotes is unforgiveable.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An excellent biography and a great read 2 Dec. 2005
By Daniel Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Candid and Engaging Biography 21 Mar. 2005
By K.A.Goldberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This candid biography was drawn from never-aired TV interviews filmed in early 1962 when former U.S. President Harry Truman was 77 and retired nine years. Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) had character, courage, and strong views, as is evident on each page. Truman provides straight answers to questions about his childhood, military service, and days as County Administrator, Senator (which Truman liked best), and President (1945-1953). Truman easily discusses tough issues like dropping the bomb on Japan, the Marshall Plan, and Korea. He praises associates Omar Bradley, Dean Acheson, Herbert Hoover, and especially George Marshall. He also shows scorn for wealthy special interests, Douglas McArthur ("Mr. Brass Hat"), Dwight Eisenhower ("difficult"), Richard Nixon ("Shifty-eyed...Liar"), and sees President Kennedy as capable but too young. Truman lacked a college education, but we see how his prolific reading in history and literature proved invaluable. The author/interviewer speaks with some of Truman's friends and relatives, but no critics, and he seldom challenges the President's responses as a good interviewer occasionally must. As a result, this highly engaging book is a bit thin and one-sided.

Merle Miller (1919-1984) admitted that during the course of these interviews he went from Truman skeptic to fan. This is an engaging and revealing look at one of America's better President's.
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