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Join us for a virtual Live Talks Los Angeles event:
Sunday, April 25, 2021
3:00pm PT/ 6pm ET 

Malcolm Gladwell
in conversation with Walter Isaacson

discussing his book,
“The Bomber Mafia: A Dream,
a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War“


This event premieres on April 25 at 3pm PT/6pm ET


Tickets: $36
includes the audio book
(Tickets open to international orders. Your audio book will be e-delivered on pub day, April 27)



Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war.

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers including Talking to StrangersDavid and GoliathOutliersBlink, and The Tipping Point. He is the cofounder and president of Pushkin Industries, an audiobook and podcast production company which produces the podcasts Revisionist History; Broken Record, a music interview show; and Solvable, in which Gladwell interviews innovative thinkers with solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.  The Bomber Mafia began as episodes Revisionist History, and the production team behind that show also produced the audiobook edition. Gladwell appeared at Live Talks Los Angeles for Talking to Strangers (video) and David and Goliath, and previously also interviewed Michael Lewis (video) on our stage.

Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He is the author of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race; Leonardo da VinciThe Innovators; Steve JobsEinstein: His Life and UniverseBenjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.  He previously appeared at Live Talks Los Angeles in conversation with Michael Lewis for his book on da Vinci (video). 

In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell  weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists had a different view. This “Bomber Mafia” asked:  What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points — industrial or transportation hubs – cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? 

In Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he steps back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asks, “Was it worth it?”  The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives but may have spared more by averting a planned US invasion.

Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge.  As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Haywood’s theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather, enemy jet fighters, and human error. When he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II.

The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.