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Publisher’s Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Crewdson (The Tarnished Door) provides a comprehensive and compelling examination of the controversy surrounding the discovery of the AIDS virus. Although the basic facts of the story have been documented before, largely via Crewdson’s reporting in the Chicago Tribune, the level of detail and drama here is unprecedented. By quoting extensively from interviews with many of the principals, from the public record and from documents obtained via the federal Freedom of Information Act, Crewdson is able to weave a story that is impossible to put down. Robert Gallo, the National Cancer Institute researcher originally credited with virtually every important AIDS-related discovery, is portrayed as a self-serving scientist willing to manipulate both the data and everyone he encounters in his quest for fame. Described as a “thug” by Harold Varmus, head of the National Institues of Health, Gallo has won every major award short of the Nobel Prize. Yet, by this account, Gallo’s actions have slowed the progress of AIDS research and to have kept the world’s blood supply at risk for far longer tha necessary. Crewdson also details the alleged complicity of the federal government, which defended Gallo’s behavior and methods for years. The only flaw with Crewdson’s meticulous reporting is his lack of direct contact with Gallo himself, and so the complexity of the man is not fully realized. Nonetheless, Crewdson’s effort deserves high praise and a wide readership.