Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)

Difficult Men

Best Seller
Difficult Men by Brett Martin
Paperback $20.00
Jul 29, 2014 | ISBN 9780143125693

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (2) +
  • Jul 29, 2014 | ISBN 9780143125693

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Jun 27, 2013 | ISBN 9781101617793

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Product Details


“Following what the journalist Brett Martin identifies as a first burst of literary energy in the 1950s (when the medium was young) and a second in the 1980s (when the forward-thinking television executive Grant Tinker’s MGM Enterprises begat the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues), this moment of ascendancy has become television’s ‘Third Golden Age.’ And in Difficult Men, Martin maps a wonderfully smart, lively, and culturally astute survey of this recent revelation— starting with a great title that does double duty . . . Martin writes with a psychological insight that enhances his nimble reporting.” —Lisa Schwartzbaum, The New York Times Book Review

“Martin is a thorough reporter and artful storyteller, clearly entranced with, though not deluded by, his subjects . . . In between the delicious bits of insider trading, the book makes a strong argument for the creative process.” —Los Angeles Times

“[A] smart, fascinating read on the serpentine histories of some of this generation’s most celebrated TV dramas.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Martin offers sharp analysis of the advances in technology and storytelling that helped TV become the twenty-first century’s predominant art form. But his best material comes from interviews with writers, directors, and others who dish about Weiner’s egomania, Milch’s battles with substance abuse, and Chase’s weirdest acid trip ever.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Keenly observed offers readers a rare glimpse inside the writers’ rooms.” —Salon

“I read Difficult Men with the bingelike intensity of discovering Deadwood on DVD—in three days, to the neglect of other responsibilities . . . I’ve been waiting for years for someone to write an Easy Riders, Raging Bulls for the HBO era . . . Martin does all that, with dry wit and a flair for juicy detail . . . An authoritative and downright riveting account of the stories behind these shows.” —The Huffington Post

“Enjoyable, wildly readable.” —The Boston Globe

“Martin operates with an enviable fearlessness, painting warts-and-all portraits of autocratic showrunners such as David Milch (Deadwood), David Simon (The Wire), and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) . . . Anyone interested in television should read this book, no matter how much or how little they know about the shows it chronicles.” —Newsday

“Martin’s analysis is intelligent and his culture commentary will be of interest to fans of many of today’s better-written shows.” The Christian Science Monitor

“Difficult Men, with its vigorous reporting and keen analysis, is one of those books that crystallizes a cultural moment and lets you savor it all the more.” The Dallas Morning News

“A vastly entertaining and insightful look at the creators of some of the most highly esteemed recent television series . . . Martin’s stated goal is to recount the culmination of what he calls the ‘Third Golden Age of Television.’ And he does so with his own sophisticated synthesis or reporting, on-set observations, and critical thinking, proving himself as capable of passing judgment, of parsing strengths and weaknesses of any given TV show, as any reviewer who covers the beat . . . in short, the sort of criticism that must now extend to television as much as it does to any other first-rate art.” —Ken Tucker, Bookforum

“[Showrunners are] as complex and fascinating in Martin’s account as their anti-hero protagonists are on the screen . . . Breaking Bad, The Shield, and Six Feet Under have dominated the recent cultural conversation in the way that movies did in the 1970s . . . Martin thrillingly explains how and why that conversation migrated to the erstwhile ‘idiot box.’ A lucid and entertaining analysis of contemporary quality TV, highly recommended to anyone who turns on the box to be challenged and engaged.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Martin deftly traces TV’s evolution from an elitist technology in a handful of homes to an entertainment wasteland reflecting viewers’ anomie to ‘the signature American art form of the first decade of the twenty-first century.’” Publishers Weekly

“Masterful . . . Unveils the mysterious-to-all-but-insiders process that takes place in the rooms where TV shows are written.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Difficult Men delivers what it promises. Martin had good access to actors, writers, and producers . . . Difficult Men is an entertaining, well-written peek at the creative process.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Brett Martin lays out the whole story of TV’s new Golden Age—lucidly and backed by awesome reporting (and TV watching) . . . Difficult Men delivers the inside story of the creation of these landmark TV shows, along with Martin’s astute take on how these series fit into the larger pop cultural landscape of the early twenty-first century . . . It should be among the most talked-about nonfiction titles of the summer.” —

“Entertaining, colorful, and full of sharp anecdotes and insights.” The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“This book taught me a thing or two about how a few weird executives enabled a handful of weirder writers to make shows I still can’t believe were on TV. But what I found more interesting—and disturbing—is how it helped me understand why an otherwise lily-livered, civic-minded nice girl like me wants to curl up with a bunch of commandment-breaking, Constitution-trampling psychos—and that’s just the cops.” —Sarah Vowell, New York Times bestselling author of Unfamiliar Fishes, The Wordy Shipmates, and Assassination Vacation

“Aptly titled, and written with verve, humor, and constant energy, Difficult Men is as gripping as an episode of The Sopranos or Homeland. Any addict of the new ‘golden’ television (or extended narratives on premium cable) will love this book. Along the way, it is also one of the smartest books about American television ever written. So don’t be surprised if that great creator, David Chase (of The Sopranos), comes out as a mix of Rodney Dangerfield and Hamlet.” —David Thompson, author of The Big Screen and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film

“Brett Martin has accomplished something extraordinary: he has corralled a disparate group of flawed creative geniuses, extracted their tales of struggle and triumph, and melded those stories into a seamless narrative that reads like a nonfiction novel. With characters as rich as these, you can’t help but reach the obvious conclusion—Difficult Men would itself make one heck of a TV series.” —Mark Adams, New York Times bestselling author of Turn Left at Machu Picchu

“The new golden age of television drama—addictive, dark, suspenseful, complex, morally murky—finally gets the insanely readable chronicle it deserves in Brett Martin’s Difficult Men. This group portrait of the guys who made The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad is a deeply reported, tough-minded, revelatory account of what goes on not just in the writers’ room but in the writer’s head—the thousand decisions fueled by genius, ego, instinct, and anger that lead to the making of a great TV show. Here, at last, is the real story, and it’s a lot more exciting than the version that gets told in Emmy acceptance speeches.” —Mark Harris, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

“Sometime in the recent past the conversation changed. My friends were no longer talking about what movie they’d been to see, but what television show was their latest obsession. Brett Martin’s smart and entertaining book illuminates why and how this happened—while treating fans to the inside scoop on the brilliant head cases who transformed a low-brow medium into a purveyor of art.” —Julie Salamon, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil’s Candy and Wendy and the Lost Boys

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates about Brett Martin
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking “SIGN UP”, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy. You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top