Everitt, in Shadows of Red, explores this charge and casts some doubt on it, at the risk of seeming himself like someone concerned more with clearance than with truth. He works hard to portray the publishers of Counterattack as complex figures, and he strives to avoid the demonization that was their trade. Shadows of Red is spotty and often turgid, but serious in intention and illuminating on several counts, especially the outsize influence of three shadowy men with an offset press and an appetite for fear.

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David Hajdu is a professor of arts and culture journalism at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.