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Thomas McMahon: Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry

McMahon’s uninvitingly named first novel follows the story of Timmy McLaurin, whose father worked at Los Alamos during the War (but not as an atomic physicist as McMahon’s homepage states but as an expert in gas dynamics). Timmy is fascinated by his father’s work but also fascinated by his father’s mistress, Maryann. The novel is about the relationship between father and son, about Timmy growing up (including his sexual fascination with Maryann but also his increasing involvement in scientific matters) and the parallel story of events – picked up in passing – at Los Alamos which, of course, are part of the USA’s growing up. The novel is written in a deceptively light-hearted style but it carries with it a serious story of the significance of the US nuclear programme. McMahon integrates all the elements so well, which might explain why the literati have not taken it as seriously as they should. A very fine novel.

Publishing history

First published 1970 by Little, Brown