The Dead Hand

A stunning feat of research and narrative. Terrifying. " –JOHN LE CARRÉ

In The Dead Hand, David Hoffman has uncovered some of the Cold War’s most persistent and consequential secrets–plans and systems designed to wage war with weapons of mass destruction, and even to place the prospective end of civilization on a kind of automatic pilot. The book’s revelations are shocking; its narrative is intelligent and gripping. This is a tour de force of investigative history." -STEVE COLL, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

An extraordinary and compelling story, beautifully researched, elegantly told, and full of revelations about the superpower arms race in the dying days of the Cold War. The Dead Hand is riveting." -RICK ATKINSON, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of An Army At Dawn

No one is better qualified than David Hoffman to tell the definitive story of the ruinous Cold War arms race. He has interviewed the principal protagonists, unearthed previously undiscovered archives, and tramped across the military-industrial wasteland of the former Soviet Union. He brings his characters to life in a thrilling narrative that contains many lessons for modern-day policymakers struggling to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. An extraordinary achievement." -MICHAEL DOBBS, author of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

To schedule an interview, please contact Todd Doughty at
or 212-782-9796.
This riveting narrative history of the end of the arms race sheds new light on the frightening last chapters of the cold war and the legacy of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that remain a threat today.

During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union amassed nuclear arsenals containing the explosive power of one million Hiroshimas. The Soviet Union secretly plotted to create the “Dead Hand,” a system designed to launch an automatic retaliatory nuclear strike on the United States, and developed a fearsome biological warfare machine. President Ronald Reagan, hoping to awe the Soviets into submission, pushed hard for the creation of space-based missile defenses.

In the first full account of how the arms race finally ended, The Dead Hand provides an unprecedented look at the inner motives and secret decisions of each side. Drawing on top-secret documents from deep inside the Kremlin, memoirs, and interviews in both Russia and the United States, David E. Hoffman introduces the scientists, soldiers, diplomats, and spies who saw the world sliding toward disaster and tells the gripping story of how Reagan, Gorbachev, and many others struggled to bring the madness to an end. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the danger continued, and the United States began a race against time to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states.

Read the Prologue
In the News

The Pulitzer Prize citation for general nonfiction, 2010.

The National Book Festival: David E. Hoffman talks about the book Sept. 25, 2010.

Out now: The UK edition from Icon Books.

Read more about The Dead Hand:

Also, see David E. Hoffman’s blog in Foreign Policy.

David E. Hoffman on the Pentagon and swine flu in The New Yorker.

To send a message see the About the Author page.

THE DEAD HAND is available at the following online retailers and bookstores everywhere

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