These journalists have been chronicled before, but Ms. Cohen, a history professor at Northwestern University, takes their story to a new level with prodigious research and sparkling prose. The book is a model of its kind. The author follows her subjects not only to the world’s flash points but also into their bedrooms and onto their psychoanalysts’ couches, documenting their news-chasing heroism and romantic treachery. They emerge as paragons of journalistic nerve whose flaws energized their accomplishments.
... bringing out disturbingly prescient material at exactly the right moment ... Much of Hotel Imperial is a distressing, immersive recounting of how denial, passivity and pacification aided the rise of authoritarian regimes. Cohen has tasked herself with the same outsized challenge that faced her subjects in real time: making the deluge of prewar events around the globe comprehensible to readers ... At times, Cohen succeeds; at others, torrents of historical details overwhelm the narrative, which Cohen has additionally burdened with extensive documentation of the correspondents’ sex lives, psychoanalysis adventures and marital woes. These sometimes pages-long interludes are speed bumps in the book, often coming just as electrifying and horrific events crescendo. The effect on the reader is comparable to the unsatisfying sex that Cohen documents in such tedious detail. Another challenge for Cohen (and for all authors of group biographies of this magnitude): stage-managing so many characters and story lines. Perhaps with this in mind, Cohen kindly includes a quick-reference 'dramatis personae' guide at the front of the book ... Despite these handicaps, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial is intermittently engrossing.
In her luminous, extensively researched and beautifully written Last Call at the Hotel Imperial, historian Deborah Cohen brilliantly captures the complicated personal and professional lives of that period’s four most influential journalists, all close friends, who witnessed the rise of fascism and communism, the powder keg of the Middle East after the Balfour Declaration and much more ... Cohen’s book is a remarkable and exceptionally reader-friendly account of the lives of an extraordinary group of writers and people.