FDR's Funeral Train
A Betrayed Widow, a Soviet Spy, and a Presidency in the Balance
By Robert Klara
(Palgrave MacMillan, Hardcover, 9780230619142, 244pp.)
Publication Date: March 16, 2010
List Price: $27.00*
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The April 1945 journey of FDR’s funeral train became a thousand-mile odyssey, fraught with heartbreak and scandal. As it passed through the night, few of the grieving onlookers gave thought to what might be happening behind the Pullman shades, where women whispered and men tossed back highballs. Inside was a Soviet spy, a newly widowed Eleanor Roosevelt, who had just discovered that her husband’s mistress was in the room with him when he died, all the Supreme Court justices, and incoming president Harry S. Truman who was scrambling to learn secrets FDR had never shared with him.
Weaving together information from long-forgotten diaries and declassified Secret Service documents, journalist and historian Robert Klara enters the private world on board that famous train. He chronicles the three days during which the country grieved and despaired as never before, and a new president hammered out the policies that would galvanize a country in mourning and win the Second World War.
“Klara revives a long-forgotten event with precision and pathos, allowing readers a coveted Pullman berth for a ride through three of this country’s darkest yet most formative days.”--Gay Talese, author of A Writer's Life "A riveting, sumptuously detailed look inside a luxurious, mysterious private train swaying from one presidency to another--the picture windows in its last car showcasing a bronze coffin to thousands of trackside mourners ignorant of the vivid tensions in the cars ahead."--John Stilgoe, Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape, Harvard University and author of Outside Lies Magic: Discovering History and Inspiration in Ordinary Places “Robert Klara’s FDR’s Funeral Train is a well-written and vivid account of America’s greatest national mourning since Abraham Lincoln was shot. Every page here is illuminating. At times Klara practically transports the reader back to 1945. A major new contribution to U.S. history.”--Douglas Brinkley is author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America "No fan of FDR and his presidency can afford to pass up this book. Robert Klara takes you inside FDR's funeral train, and into the minds and hearts of those who made the president's last journey with him. Klara offers a unique, never-before-told perspective on the sudden transfer of power, the players who wanted to grab some of that power and the widow whose grief was tinged with the bitter taste of betrayal. A remarkable story by a true storyteller."--Lorraine Diehl, author of The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station
"No one in 1945, friend or enemy, was unmoved by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, after his dozen critical years in the White House. FDR's Funeral Train vividly recalls the nerve-racking week behind the headlines, when his family and his government rose above a trainload of personal problems to help the nation across the chasm left by his demise. An exciting addition to the Roosevelt bookshelf, Klara’s book is overflowing with the stuff that every history reader craves – fresh, original research."-- Julie Fenster, author of The Case of Abraham Lincoln and FDR's Shadow "With great skill and riveting detail, Robert Klara uses a three day train journey to provide readers with a fascinating glimpse into the inner-workings of the Washington elite in the days after FDR's death. This fast-paced narrative is filled with vivid portraits and plenty of intrigue. It also manages to shed new light on a critical moment in our nation's history."--Steve Gillon, author of 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America and Resident Historian, The History Channel
"An intriguing account of FDR's last journey and a must read for all those still caught up in the romance and mystery of rail travel"—David B Woolner, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute and Associate Professor of History, Marist College"FDR's Funeral Train is a fascinating tale well told. Hop aboard with the skilled storyteller Robert Klara. You'll be glad you did."--James Bradley, author of Flags of our Fathers and Flyboys "In the manner of Bob Greene's Once Upon a Town or Jody Rosen's White Christmas, similar, bite-sized slices of World War II–era home-front history, Klara charms as he informs. A little gem." -- Kirkus (starred review) "[A] bizarre, one-of-a-kind trip on a funeral train. Klara has put together a thrilling piece of history....Sixty-five years after FDR's death, Klara has managed to provide a fresh look at history as well as the political landscape of the 21st century." --The Daily Beast "Full of fascinating anecdotes....This is popular history at its best: engaging, informative and insightful. It is very well written and . . . a pure pleasure to read . . . sheds welcome light on a fascinating and largely forgotten episode of American political history."--Christian Science Monitor "The author’s exhaustive research reveals for the first time the inside story of the 1,000-mile train journey from Georgia to New York."--Charlottesville Daily Progress "A tale that unfolds with all the drama that the subtitle suggests. . . . Klara has recreated the journey in such fascinating, cinematic detail that the luxurious Pullman cars themselves almost seem like characters."--Hudson Valley "This book provides a fascinating look at foreign policy at the tail end of World War II, as well as both foreign and domestic policy after the war ended. . . . A compelling tale of a little-known piece of American history. [For] anyone interested in presidential biographies and World War II literature. [F]ans of conspiracy theories may also enjoy reading this book."--Daily Freeman