Searching and going through archives of information is something he enjoyed about writing the book. He tries to pick out information other historians ignored, but still played key roles in the election outcome.
“There is a lot of stuff in the papers of that time that the historians tend to ignore,” he said. “There were some wonderful writers and columnists out there … they were very good at telling folks what was going on.”
Discovering odd, often unknown, stories also is interesting to him and he incorporates it into his book.
“You can sometimes drag in or revive the stories that were known then and tell something that people don’t know,” he said, “because if I am spending 400 pages telling you what you already know then I am wasting your time and my time.”
One odd story in the book is tied to Richard Nixon’s investigation into Alger Hiss, who Nixon believed had been Soviet spy. Nixon, as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, uncovered incriminating documents on Hiss, leading to a perjury conviction.
Pietrusza also tells the story of a woman who was a tutor at a Russian embassy in New York who decided to escape.
“She tries to escape and runs away to a farm and Soviet agents grab her and bring her back,” he said, “and there are ordinary people that are just trying to get her free, just ordinary people trying to have a lawsuit to be able to go into the embassy … she hears about this on the radio and says ‘people care about me,’ … and she jumps out the third floor window onto the concrete to escape.”
The woman ultimately survived and Pietrusza said it shows the “human cost” of communism the country was up against.
Also, he strives to create portraits of important characters surrounding the election campaign. When one of the characters then does something significant, he said people can now better understand the decision, so it is “not just strangers doing something.”