American Time Bomb: Attica, Sam Melville, and a Son's Search for Answers (Hardcover)

American Time Bomb: Attica, Sam Melville, and a Son's Search for Answers By Joshua Melville Cover Image
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American Time Bomb is a vital read for this moment. ” —Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

Few stories are more central to understanding our history of racially biased incarceration and violent social activism than the life of Sam Melville. Melville was both reviled and admired as one of the most feared radicals in post–World War II history. His importance in the 1960s is widely recognized by historians and scholars as epitomizing the controversies, the promise, and the problems of the New Left.

This memoir by Melville’s son opens a window into the personal life of a legend, revealing the universal and all-too-human foibles motivating those driven to make change through violence. In the current political climate, at the fiftieth anniversary of the Attica Uprising, this nation grows increasingly interested in the racially biased incarceration and violent social activism that has shaped our nation.

There are few stories more central to both subjects than the life of Sam Melville, who was often called “the Mad Bomber.” American Time Bomb is a son's personal portrait based on years of investigation of Melville's story and the history he helped to create.

Joshua Melville’s personal connection to the story gives a gut-wrenching multigenerational tale of childhood abandonment but also adds a compelling historical study of politics, history, and issues of social justice.

About the Author

Joshua Melville is the author of five books, including Confessions of a Record Producer and Million Dollar Mistakes, under the pseudonym Moses Avalon. His titles have become recommended reading in over fifty music business programs, including the music and entertainment law programs at UCLA, Loyola, NYU, Harvard, and Loyola Law Schools.He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Praise For…

"What do the fabled '60s mean to the children of the enflamed radicals? The aptly named American Time Bomb is one tour-de-force answer. I couldn't put down this masterpiece of combined historical sleuthing and self-reflection." —Mark Rudd, author of Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen

"With the imaginative powers of a novelist, the tenacity of an investigative reporter, and the seriousness-of-purpose of an historian, Joshua Melville has produced a remarkable double memoir—first, the story of his dad, Sam Melville, murdered by an agent of the state at the age of thirty-seven during the notorious uprising at Attica prison, and, second, the pursuit of his father’s legacy, and his own truth. All children must eventually learn to walk on their own, of course, to make their distinct and wobbly way through life, to sing their own songs and tell their own stories. . . . Melville has taken on that universal task with uncommon courage—his odyssey takes him through treacherous waters where he confronts a host of mythical monsters, resists a chorus of sirens, and overcomes substantial obstacles. In the end, Sam Melville got the historian he deserves—the dazzling son he called Jocko." —Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days: Memoir of an Antiwar Activist

"Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. Genesis 22:7. American Time Bomb is Isaac’s account. It differs dramatically from the official version." —Ron Kuby

"Josh Melville makes a strong argument that the pen is mightier than the sword. As a son, longing to understand his father’s death at Attica, his story is the stuff of grand opera and Greek tragedy. As detective and historian he has delivered a mesmerizing tale, insisting that America look at itself." —David Rothenberg, founder of the Fortune Society 

"What do you do when the father who abandoned you turns out to be a major domestic terrorist? In this devastating, visceral, and breathtaking memoir, Melville asks complicated questions unflinchingly. His story is at turns heartbreaking, infuriating, resonant, and difficult. It’s one-of-a-kind book, and I couldn’t put it down." —Susan Jane Gilman, author of Donna Has Left the Building

"American Time Bomb is a vital read for this moment. When hundreds of state troopers entered the Attica State Correctional Facility back in 1971 with guns blazing, killing sixties’ radical Sam Melville, his son’s life was forever changed. Because state officials then denied any wrongdoing, as well as hid, 'lost,' and sealed all records related to their brutal retaking of that prison, Josh Melville had to spend literally decades trying to figure out exactly how his dad was murdered, and, increasingly important, how he had lived well before that awful day. American Time Bomb is a most beautiful memoir, and even while the conclusions that it draws may, like the tumultuous decades that it covers, generate some debate, they will no doubt give readers much to think on for a long time to come." —Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

"An engaging and intimate memoir that offers a personal history of the radical underground and adds context to the story of the Attica uprising." — Library Journal

"A nuanced, ambivalent portrait of a man who pushed himself to extremes and left behind a wounded family." — CrimeReads

"If you are at all interested in the radical left movements of the late 60’s, or what happened at Attica prison in September of 1971, Joshua Melville has pulled together lots of information on the bravery of the inmates and the cruelty of the prison leadership, the state troopers and NY’s governor at the time." —Goodreads, Johanna

"An extraordinary mixture of memoir, mystery and social history." — The Venetian Vase

Product Details
ISBN: 9781641605458
ISBN-10: 1641605456
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English