Fascinating.... The sweeping story of the soulful German shepherd who was born on the battlefields of World War I, immigrated to America, conquered Hollywood, struggled in the transition to the talkies, helped mobilize thousands of dog volunteers against Hitler and himself emerged victorious as the perfect family-friendly icon of cold war gunslinging, thanks to the new medium of television.... Do dogs deserve biographies? In Rin Tin Tin Susan Orlean answers that question resoundingly in the affirmative.... By the end of this expertly told tale, she may persuade even the most hardened skeptic that Rin Tin Tin belongs on Mount Rushmore with George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, or at least somewhere nearby with John Wayne and Seabiscuit.
Jennifer Schuessler - New York Times Book Review
Stunning.... A book so moving it melted the heart of at least this one dogged Lassie lover.... Don't let the book's title fool you. Calling Rin Tin Tin the story of a dog is like calling Moby-Dick the story of a whale. Orlean surfs the tide of time, pushing off in the 1900s and landing in the now, delivering a witty synopsis of nearly a century of Rin Tin Tins and American popular culture. The result is a truly exceptional book that marries historical journalism, memoir, and the technique of character-driven, psychologically astute, finely crafted fiction: a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.
Meredith Maran - Boston Globe
Orlean's deadpan sense of humor and ear for the odd and beguiling fact make it hard to put down the book. But there's also something haunting about it, a sense of the brevity of life and fame. . . . Orlean's writing is built to last. As individual as a fingerprint, or a face, it turns what could have been a footnote to history into a touching account of the way one life resonates with others.
Margaret Quamme - Columbus Dispatch
Dazzling.... Susan Orlean has fashioned a masterpiece of reporting and storytelling, some of it quite personal and all of it compelling. Animal-related books have always peppered best-seller lists—Seabiscuit comes quickly to mind—and this one will top such lists. It deserves to, and also to work its way into millions of hearts and minds.... [Carl] Sandburg called Rin Tin Tin "thrillingly intelligent" and "phenomenal." The same can be said for this remarkable book.... Spectacular.
It's a story of magnificent obsession. Nearly a decade in the making, combining worldwide research with personal connection, it offers the kind of satisfactions you only get when an impeccable writer gets hold of one heck of a story.
Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times
Remarkable.... Orlean's pursuit of detail is mind-boggling.... The book is less about a dog than the prototypes he embodied and the people who surrounded him. It is about story-making itself, about devotion, luck and heroes.... Ultimately, the reader is left well nourished and in awe of both Orlean's reportorial devotion and at her magpie ability to find the tiniest sparkling detail.
Alexandar Horowitz - San Francisco Chronicle
With this stirring biographical history, Orlean follows up her bestselling The Orchid Thief with another tale of passion and dedication overcoming adversity and even common sense—this one centering on Rin Tin Tin, the German shepherd who founded a film and TV dynasty. After spending a lonely childhood in an orphanage, the young soldier Lee Duncan discovers on the battlefield of WWI France the puppy that will make a name for him as one of Hollywood's top dog trainers, and become his life's guiding purpose. The book follows Rin Tin Tin's trajectory from early Hollywood's "Poverty Row," where Duncan sought the dog's first film deal, to international celebrity in silent films, radio shows, and TV programs. Though Rin Tin Tin's contracts began to lapse in later years, Duncan never ceased grooming canine successors and shopping around scripts, and producer Bert Leonard lived on friends' couches as he poured money into colorizing old episodes of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. Orlean directs a sympathetic gaze toward these men so haunted by their memories of the dog that swept them into stardom. Even readers coming to Rin Tin Tin for the first time will find it difficult to refrain from joining Duncan in his hope that Rin Tin Tin's legacy will "go on forever..
In this exceptional book, Orlean (staff writer, The New Yorker; author, The Orchid Thief) portrays the magical bond, which led to lasting international fame, between a special puppy found on a World War I battlefield and Lee Duncan, the man who rescued him. She spent ten years researching and writing their story, a richly textured narrative filled with personal accounts, astute cultural and social backdrops, behind-the-scenes details on film and television, and an informed look at the historical roles of dogs in war, on-screen, and in the home. Orlean describes Rin Tin Tin's career from the early days in film through the popular 1950s television series. His heroic persona transformed into immortal legend, as subsequent dogs sustained both his name and the noble qualities he symbolized. Duncan and others who were a part of Rinty's story are honestly yet compassionately portrayed. Orlean also shares her own tales of epic research. Verdict: This is a thoroughly researched and masterfully written work that will please a wide audience, especially those who remember this noble canine hero. It is also an important addition to the literature of cultural, entertainment, and animal history. —Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ
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