DOOM TOWNS: THE PEOPLE & LANDSCAPES OF ATOMIC TESTING Andy Kirk & Kristian Purcell Published by Oxford University Press
"THIS BOOK IS A BEAUTIFUL OBJECT AND A PROFOUND TOOL. KIRK'S GRAPHIC HISTORY OF THE NEVADA NUCLEAR TEST SITE OFFERS A SINGULAR VISION THAT COULD ONLY GROW FROM HIS IMMERSIVE DECADE-LONG COLLABORATION WITH ONE PLACE, ITS PEOPLE, AND CONTEXTS. PAYING CAREFUL ATTENTION TO ORAL HISTORIES, NATURE, AND VISUAL CULTURE, KIRK EXPOSES ONCE OBSCURED COLD WAR SPACES TO THE STARK CLARITY OF DESERT LIGHT. PURCELL'S ILLUSTRATIONS HELP TO DEVELOP THE POWERFUL SENSE OF EMPATHY THAT IS AT THE CORE OF THIS BOOK. DOOM TOWNS PROVIDES A CRUCIAL NEW WAY TO UNDERSTAND THE LEGACY OF THE COLD WAR AND THE ATOMIC WEST--AND OF DOING HISTORY THROUGH STORIES THAT COME ALIVE IN YOUR HANDS." JEFFREY C. SANDERS, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
The history of atomic testing is usually told as a story about big technology, big science, and complex global politics. Doom Towns: The People and Landscapes of Atomic Testing explains critical technological developments and the policies that drove weapons innovation within the context of the specific environments and communities where testing actually took place. The book emphasizes the people who participated, protested, or were affected by atomic testing and explains the decision-making process that resulted in these people and places becoming the only locations and groups to actually experience nuclear warfare during the Cold War. The graphic history presents various viewpoints directly linked to primary sources that reveal the complexity and uncertainty of this history to readers, while also providing evidence and access to archives to help them explore this controversial topic further and to reach their own informed conclusions about this history.
DOOM TOWNS is the first graphic work to be published by Purcell, who had previously contributed the cover to another OUP title MUSICAL CREATIVITES IN PRACTICE by Dr. Pamela Burnard. The subject of Atomic Testing was touched on in a series of paintings and drawings across 2007-08 and it was those that attracted the attention of Dr. Andy Kirk of University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). Kirk had lead a 7 year oral history project to record the experiences of all those involved and affected by the testing programme at the Nevada Test Site and saw the potential in a book that mixed the experiences of those people, the backdrop of cold war history, and art, which could help to fill in the shades of grey in such a polarised story.
The example set by the fantastic graphic histories of people such as Emmanuel Guibert and Jonathon Fetter-Vorm lead Kirk and Purcell to explore the idea of a graphic narrative. The result is 120 pages of art that take the reader from World War II to the present day while encompassing the experiences of the people touched by the story - from the down-winders to the military personnel. The story is even narrated by one of the key journalists to cover the events, Gladwin Hill, who helps to keep the reader aware of what was known at the time. The second half is a discussion of the historical sources and the issues surrounding the contentious history of testing which continues to polarise opinion.