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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Red Scare in the Green Mountains: The McCarthy Era in Vermont 1946-1960 is a nonfiction historical work written by Rick Winston. Winston is a long-time resident of the Green Mountain state who, while volunteering to do research for a 1988 conference on the McCarthy Era, which he also helped organize, became enthralled in the actual events that happened and stories of the people whose lives were disrupted by the climate of fear and paranoia that gripped the country. His parents had their own stories to share about being called up by the HUAC. Winston’s book contains nine chapters which focus on different people, aspects and events which were a part of Vermont’s Red Scare history during the McCarthy Era. He begins with Richard O. Hathaway’s historical overview, written for the Conference’s program guide, and Winston also provides a timeline for the progress of the Red Scare in Vermont and the U.S.
Like most Americans, I suspect, I had little more than a passing knowledge about the Red Scare and the impact McCarthy had on the political climate in this country. Most of us are familiar with the impact it had in Hollywood and the movie industry. Lists of blacklisted actors, directors, writers and composers can be easily found on the internet, but the actual stories of the people and communities impacted are rather more difficult to find, as evidenced by the author’s discussion of his forays into the microfiche sections of his library. Each chapter in this book is fascinating and helped me to gain insights into the mindsets of Vermonters during that time, and the motivations of those who sought to demonize their neighbors out of fear of the Communists. Winston’s book is filled with front pages of newspapers, photographs and archival documents that bring his topic to life. His presentation is flawless, and his writing provides a seamless transition from one chapter’s events to the next. I also found his presentation of the politics of the mid-twentieth century enlightening, especially in light of current events. Red Scare in the Green Mountains: The McCarthy Era in Vermont 1946-1960 is most highly recommended.