The book's genesis and publication could hardly have been swifter. Its writing took four days from the 1st to the 4th June 1940: it was published on the 5th July. It is an angry book, indeed, a devastatingly effective polemic. Its target was the appeasers of the 1930s, the leading culprits being Baldwin, Chamberlain and Halifax who had left the country so ill-prepared, and who, by their pusillanimity, had emboldened Hitler and Mussolini; and in the case of the last two still favoured some accommodation with the fascist dictators. In today's parlance, it would be called a wake-up call. It was very successful selling about 200,000 copies.
Kenneth Morgan, Michael Foot's biographer, describes the book as consisting of 'a series of brief vignettes of key episodes or personalities, the latter invariably foolish or dishonest.' Michael Foot wrote eight of the chapters, the first and most powerful one being on Dunkirk.
Although Michael Foot was the main contributor, and the one who suggested 'Cato' as the umbrella pseudonym, the other two, as Michael Foot would be the first to admit, Peter Howard and Frank Own should not be forgotten.
Seventy years on, Guilty Men has not lost its readability and power to enrage.
"He has done for historical encyclopaedias what Samuel Johnson did for dictionaries."
Andrew Roberts, The Daily Telegraph
"An astonishing synthesis of information."
Roger Scruton, The Times
"An astonishing achievement, a compelling book for dipping into, a splendid work."
Simon Hoggart, The Guardian
"This marvellous book, which contains tens of thousands of historical facts will enlighten, amuse, and inform. Every home should have one."
Simon Heffer, The Daily Mail
"If you were marooned on that mythical desert island with only one history book, this would be the one to take. Buy three copies – one for the children, one for the grandchildren- and one for yourself."
John Charmley, The Daily Telegraph