The writings of  Richard Kluger

Ashes to Ashes

America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health,

and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris


The Critical Response


THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (lead review by Daniel J. Kevles): “A great battleship of a book – formidable, majestic…armed with an abundance of revealing information, guided with discerning literary skill….  Mr. Kluger invites one to admire these moguls of tobacco the way one appreciates, say, Lenin – as brilliant strategists and resourceful technicians …single-minded in their determination to satisfy [a mass want] and heedless of the human cost of their profit making.”  A behind-the-scenes history of an industry “whose structure, power, and growing vulnerability are so richly illuminated by this monumental and timely book.”


TIME MAGAZINE (Ellizabeth Gleick) says Ashes to Ashes is “monumental…elegantly written….  It will probably be the definitive volume of the subject of cigarettes in the 20th century.”


WASHINGTON POST (John Schwartz): “Lively, entertaining, awesomely comprehensive….  The quality of Kluger’s work astonishes throughout: He actually persuaded many top tobacco executives to talk with him….  Getting the kind of good stuff Kluger pulls together is just about miraculous.”


BOSTON GLOBE (Mark Pendergrast): “A vastly entertaining business saga….  The second strand of the book documents the increasing scientific evidence [against cigarettes]….  It succeeds admirably in portraying the ‘steady drumbeat of denial and disinformation of tobacco lords’….  It will certainly stand as the definitive work on the subject for many years.”


THE NEW YORKER reviewer Jonathan Franzen writes about “Richard Kluger’s excellent new history of the tobacco industry.”


THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (Michael Massing): “[I]t will no doubt stand as the standard history of the tobacco industry for many years to come.”


USA TODAY (Michael Gartner): “Kluger’s history has more intrigue, is more frightening, and is more powerful than John Grisham’s new thriller about a jury in a tobacco case….  It’s a sad and saddening story of men of men and companies who have knowingly peddled poison….  It will make you cry.”


THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (Luis G. Escobedo): “…the sign of an excellent book [is] its interest increases in direct proportion to the reader’s previous knowledge of the subject.  The book is a short history of the science of epidemiology and a discouraging lesson on how knowledge is used, ignored, and ‘spun’ in a struggle with high stakes.  It is a book about power and impotence, about human suffering and human ambition.  The author makes no bones about his stance on the issue, but I find his account well-balanced and thought-provoking.”


BUSINESS WEEK: “Kluger’s thorough research and well-organized writing make this book the definitive – and very fair – history of the most controversial industry of our time.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reviewer concurred, saying Ashes to Ashes “will stand as the authoritative source on how we wound up in a disastrous dilemma.” THE FINANCIAL TIMES review began: “Perhaps the greatest tribute one can pay the author of this monumental history…is that at the end of 807 pages, it is impossible to say with certainty whether or not he smokes.  Such objectivity is rare on an issue where the level of debate tends to hover close to the edge of hysteria.”


ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Kluger’s…masterful history…is a tightly woven tapestry, by turns rollicking business yarn, insightful political analysis, detailed investigative piece and richly textured social history.”


DETROIT NEWS/FREE PRESS: “Ashes to Ashes will become a classic text to explain the hurdles confronting public health in America and abroad.”


HOUSTON CHRONICLE says “Kluger racks up his evidence with what seems to be the meticulousness of a lawyer hired both to defend and prosecute.”  The DALLAS MORNING NEWS agrees that “Kluger is scrupulously fair.”  The DENVER POST termed it “a tour de force of unique dimensions… a huge, carefully researched volume.”


MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: Kluger “has written what will surely be one of the year’s most influential, and also most readable, books.”


PHILADELPHIA INQUIRERAshes to Ashes is “awesomely researched and elegantly written.”  The KANSAS CITY STAR rates it “an important, thoughtful, and provocative book.”


TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL: “[T]his even-handed…opus interweaves an exquisitely written business history…with a Greek chorus chronicle on the parallel medical research coups that uncovered smoking’s lethal impact.”



©2017 Richard Kluger