There is something intriguing about any lost manuscript, newly discovered. Will it sparkle like buried treasure, crack a code, contain a prophecy? Or was there good reason for its disappearance: second thoughts on the part of the author, sound judgement on the part of a publisher? This book spent almost sixty years in Alistair Cooke’s closet before it was dug out by his secretary, Patti Yasek, a short while before the writer’s death. Cooke, who was fastidious to the end, was delighted by the find and content the book should be published. This is not, then, a case of the artist’s discarded canvases or sketchbook doodles being rushed to market by post-mortem scavengers.
In February 1942 Cooke set out from Washington in a Lincoln Zephyr ‘with five re-treaded tyres, the War department’s compliments to all public relations officers … and an insurance policy covering one life and one colour camera. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in December. America was now at war