Uranium + Peaches, a collaboration with Einstein protégé Leo Szilard’s biographer William Lanouette on a play about the world’s first attempt to stop the Atomic Age before it had yet begun.

  1. On the 50th anniversary of the H-bomb’s big bang birth, its designer—Teller’s right-hand man—sat right in the front row for the first staged reading of Uranium + Peaches

  2. For the Metropolitan Opera’s 125th anniversary season, it convoked a season-long series of symposiums all around Manhattan on all things Manhattan Project; they produced a special staged reading of our play as finale. 

  3. On the Left Coast, the legendary Ed Asner received standing ovations in Hollywood and Beverly Hills portraying our “Leo.” 

  4. Last spring, a staged reading was produced at Princeton’s Pi Day festivities; physics don and former White House nuke advisor Dr. Frank von Hippel led the talkback. 

  5. Presently, a public television producer is developing a one-hour teleplay based on Uranium + Peaches.


Recently, I’ve collaborated with Don H. Reuben, general counsel for thirty years at the once-upon-a-time third largest U.S. news and entertainment conglomerate during its heyday.  Don’s insider’s axe-grinder on the murder of the American newspaper industry by bean-counting drones, C-suite sycophants, Wall Street soothsayers and private equity parasites has opened my eyes to many truths.  Ralph Nader observed (in Ciccone’s Chicago and the American Century, 1999), “No lawyer in any other city is as powerful or feared as Don Reuben is in Chicago.”  As octogenarians go, Don’s a fun one…

Our collaboration has led me to a work-in-progress I call Own Your Own.  Newsgathering, its funding, ownership, direction and defense—our fount of public discourse—needs a Big Idea.  I have such an idea.  More later…


Like many who don’t find “autodidact” to be a cuss word, books have been a lifelong passion obsession.  Some of my miscellaneous contributions to the conversation in book publishing can be found at Publishing Perspectives—the 938-year-old Frankfurt Book Fair’s online international daily news arm.


Blah, blah, blah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Anyone who has lived nearly twenty years in Los Angeles has a stack of “screenplay” near-miss war stories.  They love to tell you that it’s a if some chimerical clockwork ran the fog of it all.  Biz guru’s guru Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon advocates guidance by heuristics in complex systems where information is naturally ambiguous and imperfect.  He says rules of thumb are [probably] both necessary and sufficient.  As adages go, then, I’m going with this old chestnut: “It’s stupid not to try, but crazy to die trying.”  So.  I’ve a wonderful collection of showpiece scripts and hilarious stories to go with them.


Yup.  Did that.  Back in Vermont, mostly in Burlington—one way or the other.  (Also went to U of Tulsa’s J-school for a semester—but that hardly counts…even though I got all A’s.)


Long-story-short:  Played my first round of golf at five-years-old; at six, joined the club; at 15, started working in the Pro Shop; at 18, became the youngest golf instructor in Vermont.  My first golf lesson customer was a charming old gentleman known around the golf club as “Ed The Professor.”  Today, he’s lionized at the University of Vermont in the eponymous “Edwin C. Greif Award for Achievement & Promise in Marketing.”  Turns out, he wrote the book on sales and marketing.  His texts from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s stand tall to this day in B-school libraries across America.  On a roll, he could string a cogent line from the Phoenicians to James Cash Penney, bridging them with Elias St. Elmo Lewis.  One day he took me aside and slipped me a key: “formal” education, he conspiratorially nudged, was neither necessary nor sufficient for success.  Maybe I should just jump right in, learn to tie a proper necktie and give the real world a try.

Next thing you know I found myself under the wing of a hardcore ex-NCR salesman whose preternatural instincts almost made up for his Fred Flintstone mien.  A bourbon-for-breakfast tough guy’s tough guy who, despite my best efforts on the lesson tee, would never be but barely a bogey golfer, he taught me that John Patterson was, in fact, a latter-day Moses and the commandments were pretty well carved in stone by NCR’s ad man—Elias St. Elmo Lewis.

After five years in the straits of apprenticeship I’d begun to burnish a knack of sorts, but Home Town USA wasn’t the place to be in the go-go Eighties.  Off I ran to get my first taste of big city corporate life. 

I sold printing and banking gadgets for a company formed by the merger of two companies both founded by NCR apostates, both devotees of pronunciamento maestro Elias St. Elmo Lewis, whose precepts, like gravity itself, were tidy, dependable and apparently inescapable.  At 27, I sold the biggest bank in my territory a million-dollar-a-year forms printing contract.  That night, I slept well thinking I’d snagged the biggest deal in the world.  The next morning, it hit me that every day would always begin with a blank order book.  Eventually, Earl Shorris (Nation of Salesmen, 1994) would identify this sort of observation as nothing more sinister than the Sisyphean reality of it all.  Camus says you should simply try to imagine Sisyphus happy.  Vonnegut said a friend of his went so far as to try heroin to cure what he called “existential hum”; the Ford Motor Company continues to try to save us all from “road noise.”  The face in my mirror kept looking out the window over my shoulder…

Next, for one reason or another, I spent a year on the nightshift in a non-union gizmo factory.  I’m pretty sure a similar experience would benefit every would-be know-it-all.  I highly recommend this endeavor to anyone with a biz book contract.

Life, etc.

I left the neckties behind and hit the road.  Pretty soon after, I met a woman at midnight in a bar.  The next week, I suggested she quit her job, sell her stuff, pack her car and come with me to California.  We were married a hundred days later on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood.  That was nearly twenty years ago.  Sometimes you just know, y’know?

She’s tall, beautiful and very brave. She raises money for a nationally renowned cancer research hospital.  We live a couple miles southeast of NASA’s JPL and a couple miles southwest of the observatory where Hubble discovered that Einstein was right.  The view’s quite something from here.

Onward ho we go.

©2008-2013 - Peter Cook

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