K Blows Top adaptation lands Paul Giamatti


HBO and Playtone (the team behind Band of Brothers) have acquired the rights to Peter Carlson’s novel K Blows Top, which recounts Khrushchev’s 13-day American sojourn in September 1959, a time when Cold War tensions between the world superpowers were running high. Veteran feature and telepic scribe Paul Bernbaum is set to pen the script. Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are exec producers with Perri Kipperman and David Stern serving as co-exec producers. Paul Giamatti is attached to play Khrushchev.


Book jacket:

This hilarious account of Khrushchev’s 1959 U.S. tour is also a supremely entertaining evocation of the history and atmosphere of Cold War America

Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—”a surreal extravaganza,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.

Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communist’s road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.

Peter Carlson is a former feature writer and columnist for The Washington Post, where he wrote the weekly column “The Magazine Reader.” The author of Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, and a co-author—with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, among others—of The Gospel According to ESPN, he lives in Rockville, MD.

Critics say:

“Hilarious…In Carlson’s hands the cold war is a surprisingly laughing matter.”

– Publishers Weekly

“The book is consistently informative and funny, but there are episodes that are strangely surreal… a fine example of popular history at its most engaging—anecdotal but informative and written with great feeling for the comedic side of current events.”

– Booklist (Starred Review)

“For anyone interested in this remarkable moment in the long history of U.S.-Soviet relations, Carlson’s book is a treat!”

-Library Journal (Starred Review)

You can read an excerpt here: