"Judgment Day" is the story of how Branden at age 14 read one of [Ayn Rand]'s monumental novels, "The Fountainhead," came under the sway of the author's vision, later met his idol, became her acolyte and proselytizer and-for 14 tumultuous years-her lover. The adulterous affair-conducted with the assent of Rand's and Branden's spouses-with a woman 25 years older was a melodrama that might have been carved from Rand's gigantic fictions.
To the Russian-born author of "Atlas Shrugged," Branden was, according to his book, the fleshly counterpart of her imagined heroes. He was a worthy disciple of her philosophy called "objectivism," which touts reason, personal freedom and capitalism as sources of human fulfillment. In the thrall of her magnetism, Branden developed a blind devotion. He became the "enforcer" who punished the heresies of deviators from Rand's unbending views. Through the Nathaniel Branden Institute and a newsletter, the psychologist promoted Rand's ideas in lectures, classes and essays.
Edith Efron, a noted journalist who was briefly in the circle around Rand more than 20 years ago and is a minor character in "Judgment Day," said in a telephone interview that she was "identified as seriously diseased" by Rand because she "criticized a plot ending of a short story" written by Rand. "Within 24 hours, I was informed I was a very sick and bad person," she recalled ". . . I remember once being told I was seriously ill because I liked Mark Twain."