Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we are delighted to welcome Max Hastings back to Ely to discuss his new book Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962. In his characteristically gripping historical narrative, Max explores one of the most perilous event in history, when mankind faced a looming nuclear collision between the United States and Soviet Union. During those weeks, the world gazed into the abyss of potential annihilation.
Max Hastings’s graphic and brilliant new history tells the story from the viewpoints of national leaders, Russian officers, Cuban peasants, American pilots and British disarmers. He deploys his accustomed blend of eye-witness interviews, archive documents and diaries, White House tape recordings, top-down analysis, first to paint word-portraits of the Cold War experiences of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Nikita Khrushchev’s Russia and Kennedy’s America; then to describe the nail-biting Thirteen Days in which Armageddon beckoned.
The invasion of Ukraine gives this narrative a hitherto unimaginable twenty-first century immediacy. We may be witnessing the onset of a new Cold War between nuclear-armed superpowers. To contend with today’s threat, which Hastings fears will prove enduring, it is critical to understand how, sixty years ago, the world survived its last glimpse into the abyss. Only by fearing the worst, he argues, can our leaders hope to secure the survival of the planet.
Max Hastings is the author of thirty books, most about conflict, including Soldiers and Operation Pedestal. Between 1986 and 2002 served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, of which the most recent are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe and The Secret War, best-sellers translated around the world.