© 2018 by Can't Make This Up History Podcast.

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Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and Its Treasures from the Nazis

Gerri Chanel

In August 1939, curators at the Louvre nestled the world's most famous painting into a special red velvet-lined case and spirited her away to the Loire Valley. So began the biggest evacuation of art and antiquities in history. As the Germans neared Paris in 1940, the French raced to move the masterpieces still further south, then again and again during the war, crisscrossing the southwest of France. Throughout the German occupation, the museum staff fought to keep the priceless treasures out of the hands of Hitler and his henchmen, often risking their lives to protect the country's artistic heritage.

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Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo and A Hidden History of the American West

David Wolman & Julian Smith

In August 1908, three unknown riders arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, their hats adorned with wildflowers, to compete in the world’s greatest rodeo. Steer-roping virtuoso Ikua Purdy and his cousins Jack Low and Archie Ka’au’a had travelled 4,200 miles from Hawaii, of all places, to test themselves against the toughest riders in the West. Dismissed by whites, who considered themselves the only true cowboys, the native Hawaiians would astonish the country, returning home champions—and American legends.

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Battle for the Marble Palace: Abe Fortas, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Forging of the Modern Supreme Court

Michael Bobelian

The nomination of Abe Fortas for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1968 launched an all-out cultural war that would determine the course of major court cases for years to come. Award-winning judicial journalist and Supreme Court reporter Michael Bobelian brings us right into the halls where this fierce battle raged, pitting Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party against Richard Nixon and the GOP in a fight that ended in the defamation of Fortas, the first Jew ever nominated for the highest judicial office. Readers are given a behind the scenes look at the camaraderie among the retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, and Fortas—and will witness, with them, the rise of Richard Nixon as the fate of the liberal court is decided.

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Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

Keith O'Brien

Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Thousands of fans flocked to multi‑day events, and cities vied with one another to host them. The pilots themselves were hailed as dashing heroes who cheerfully stared death in the face. Well, the men were hailed. Female pilots were more often ridiculed than praised for what the press portrayed as silly efforts to horn in on a manly, and deadly, pursuit. Fly Girls recounts how a cadre of women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky.

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Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States

Dr. Bradley W. Hart

Bradley W. Hart's Hitler's American Friends exposes the homegrown antagonists who sought to protect and promote Hitler, leave Europeans (and especially European Jews) to fend for themselves, and elevate the Nazi regime. We try to tell ourselves it couldn't happen here, but Americans are not immune to the lure of fascism. Hitler's American Friends is a powerful look at how the forces of evil manipulate ordinary people, how we stepped back from the ledge, and the disturbing ease with which we could return to it.

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In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein

Fiona Sampson

In this probing narrative, Fiona Sampson pursues Mary Shelley through her turbulent life, much as Victor Frankenstein tracked his monster across the arctic wastes. Sampson has written a book that finally answers the question of how it was that a nineteen-year-old came to write a novel so dark, mysterious, anguished, and psychologically astute that it continues to resonate two centuries later. No previous biographer has ever truly considered this question, let alone answered it.

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Rising Star, Setting Sun: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and the Presidential Transition that Changed America

John T. Shaw

In Rising Star, Setting Sun, John T. Shaw focuses on the intense ten-week transition between JFK’s electoral victory and his inauguration on January 20, 1961. In just over two months, America would transition into a new age, and nowhere was it more marked that in the generational and personal difference between these two men and their dueling visions for the country they led. Extensively researched and eloquently written, Shaw paints a vivid picture of what Time called a “turning point in the twentieth century” as Americans today find themselves poised on the cusp of another watershed moment in our nation’s history.

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York

Stacy Horn

In the first contemporary investigative account of Blackwell’s, Stacy Horn tells this chilling narrative through the gripping voices of the island’s inhabitants, as well as the period’s officials, reformers, and journalists, including the celebrated Nellie Bly. Digging through city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports, Horn brings this forgotten history alive: there was terrible overcrowding; prisoners were enlisted to care for the insane; punishment was harsh and unfair; and treatment was nonexistent.

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Jack Fairweather

To uncover the fate of the thousands being interred at a mysterious Nazi camp on the border of the Reich, a thirty-nine-year-old Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki volunteered for an audacious mission: assume a fake identity, intentionally get captured and sent to the new camp, and then report back to the underground on what had happened to his compatriots there. But gathering information was not his only task: he was to execute an attack from inside—where the Germans would least expect it.

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The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America's Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919

James Carl Nelson

In the winter of 1919, 5,000 U.S. soldiers, nicknamed “The Polar Bears,” found themselves hundreds of miles north of Moscow in desperate, bloody combat against the newly formed Soviet Union’s Red Army. Temperatures plummeted to sixty below zero. Their guns and their flesh froze. The Bolsheviks, camouflaged in white, advanced in waves across the snow like ghosts. In the century since, America has forgotten the Polar Bears’ harrowing campaign. Russia, notably, has not, and as Nelson reveals, the episode continues to color Russian attitudes toward the United States. At once epic and intimate, The Polar Bear Expedition masterfully recovers this remarkable tale at a time of new relevance.

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Liberated Spirits: Two Women Who Battled Over Prohibition

Hugh Ambrose and John Schuttler

 The passage of the 18th Amendment (banning the sale of alcohol) and the 19th (women's suffrage) in the same year is no coincidence. Liberated Spirits describes how the fight both to pass and later to repeal Prohibition was driven by women, as exemplified by two remarkable women in particular. With fierce drive and acumen, Mabel Willebrandt transcended the tremendous hurdles facing women lawyers and was appointed Assistant Attorney General. Wealthy Pauline Sabin had no formal education in law or government but she too fought entrenched discrimination to rise in the ranks of the Republican Party.  

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Landru's Secret: The Deadly Seductions of France's Lonely Hearts Serial Killer

Richard Tomlinson

On 12 April 1919, the Paris police arrested a bald, short, 50-year-old swindler at his apartment near the Gare du Nord, acting on a lead from a humble housemaid. A century later, Henri Désiré Landru remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in French criminal history, a riddle at the heart of an unsolved murder puzzle.

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Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation

Dean Jobb

It was a time of unregulated madness. And nowhere was it madder than in Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. Enter a slick, smooth-talking, charismatic lawyer named Leo Koretz, who enticed hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million—upward of $400 million today—in phantom timberland and nonexistent oil wells in Panama. Leo Koretz was the Bernie Madoff of his day, and Dean Jobb shows us that the American dream of easy wealth is a timeless commodity.

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Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

Rich Ratay

An “informative, often hilarious family narrative [that] perfectly captures the love-hate relationship many have with road trips” (Publishers Weekly), Don’t Make Me Pull Over! reveals how the family road trip came to be, how its evolution mirrored the country’s, and why those magical journeys that once brought families together—for better and worse—have largely disappeared

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A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean

Roland Philipps

Donald Maclean was one of the most treacherous spies of the Cold War era and a key member of the infamous "Cambridge Five" spy ring, yet the full extent of this shrewd, secretive man’s betrayal has never been explored―until now. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified files and unseen family papers, A Spy Named Orphan meticulously documents his extraordinary story.

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Ohio's Black Hand Syndicate: The Birth of Organized Crime in America

David Meyers and Elise Meyers-Walker

Organized crime was born in the back of a fruit store in Marion. Before America saw headlines about the Capone Mob, the Purple Gang and Murder Inc., the specter of the Black Hand terrorized nearly every major city. It was only a matter of time before these professed Robin Hoods formed a band. And when they did, the eyes of the world turned to Ohio, particularly when the local Black Hand outfit known as the Society of the Banana went on trial. Authors David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker unfold this first and nearly forgotten chapter on crime syndicate history.

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Mark Bourrie

Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland—thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions. A guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits’ corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela. His most lasting venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation.

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Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates

Eric Jay Dolin

Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracy’s “Golden Age”―spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s―when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them.

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Valley Forge

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Valley Forge is the riveting true story of a nascent United States toppling an empire. Using new and rarely seen contemporaneous documents—and drawing on a cast of iconic characters and remarkable moments that capture the innovation and energy that led to the birth of our nation—Drury and Clavin provide the definitive account of this seminal and previously undervalued moment in the battle for American independence.

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Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

Richard Munson

Nikola Tesla invented the radio, robots, and remote control. His electric induction motors run our appliances and factories, yet he has been largely overlooked by history. In Tesla, Richard Munson presents a comprehensive portrait of this farsighted and underappreciated mastermind.

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Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition

Paul Watson

The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called “the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred…manhunt in history.”

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King Con: The Bizarre Adventures of the Jazz Age's Greatest Impostor

Paul Willetts

Edgar Laplante was a smalltime grifter, an erstwhile vaudeville performer, and an unabashed charmer. But after years of playing thankless gigs and traveling with medicine shows, he decided to undertake the most demanding and bravura performance of his life. In the fall of 1917, Laplante reinvented himself as Chief White Elk: war hero, sports star, civil rights campaigner, Cherokee nation leader—and total fraud.

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Brutus: The Noble Conspirator

Dr. Kathryn Tempest

In this comprehensive and stimulating biography Kathryn Tempest delves into contemporary sources to bring to light the personal and political struggles Brutus faced. As the details are revealed—from his own correspondence with Cicero, from the perceptions of his peers, and from the Roman aristocratic values and concepts that held sway in his time—Brutus emerges from legend, revealed to us more surely than ever before.

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Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich

Dr. Eric Kurlander

In this eye-opening history, Eric Kurlander reveals how the Third Reich’s relationship to the supernatural was far from straightforward. Even as popular occultism and superstition were intermittently rooted out, suppressed, and outlawed, the Nazis drew upon a wide variety of occult practices and esoteric sciences to gain power, shape propaganda and policy, and pursue their dreams of racial utopia and empire.

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