Books by John Calvin Batchelor

Released: May 20, 1996

Novelist Batchelor's (Father's Day, 1994, etc.) history of the Republican Party is as complete, informative, and stimulating as an eighth-grade civics text. Near the beginning of this strangely subdued paean to the GOP, Batchelor describes its 1854 birth as ``a revolutionary rising against the status quo of human bondage.'' The phrase promises grand vistas, not the flat landscape that follows, rendered in near-monochrome. Batchelor's meticulous history includes a chapter on each quadrennial election, complete with bios, snippets from speeches, platform reviews, and election results. Even Batchelor's partisanship is hampered by a style so flat, it's sometimes hard to distinguish praise from irony, as when he writes of the 1894 campaign, ``A vote for the Republicans was a vote for the American smokestack, for the American farm, for the America fireside, for all American profit''; or when he says that George Bush ``pushed Moscow and its puppet states . . . into the dustbin of history.'' The book begs for the why and how to go with its generous servings of who, what, and where. For example, why, after 100 years, did the GOP yield its role as champion of civil rights and women's rights to the Democrats? What is the link between Abraham Lincoln and Newt Gingrich? Batchelor quotes and then requotes Gingrich at the end of the book: ``The Republican party . . . has an obligation to be positive on behalf of the values of the American people,'' as if to say this is the ideal linking Lincoln to McKinley to Eisenhower to Reagan. But the phrase, even twice italicized, hangs unadorned and unexplained, like the rest of the book. An almanac filled with more than one cares to know about the Republican Party, and less than one wants to understand; an almanac written by a novelist, devoid of the novelist's God's-eye view. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (First printing of 50,000) Read full book review >
FATHER'S DAY by John Calvin Batchelor
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

An Acting President's power grab involves both constitutional challenge and military coup in this near-future political melodrama, with which Batchelor (Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing, 1993, etc.) makes his own grab for a large, action-oriented readership. It's 2003. In January, Democratic President Teddy Jay, abandoned by his wife and deeply depressed, entered the hospital, using the 25th Amendment to transfer his duties to Vice President Shy Garland. The story begins five months later with a military exercise, Garland's brainchild, that culminates with the shooting of a stand-in President by Col. Red Schofield, commander of the operation. As Jay, claiming recovery, prepares to rejoin his wife and resume the presidency, Garland mounts his constitutional challenge; only if it fails will he resort to the military option (code-named Father's Day). Message: ``The biggest son of a national politics,'' for whom life is a baseball game, will do anything to win. The contest, though, is unequal: Jay is a wimp who must rely on his political enemies to restore him to power. These include Republicans like naval war hero and presidential hopeful Jack Longfellow and Longfellow's wife, Jean, the Senate Minority Leader. They get a boost when designated shooter Schofield leaks to sister Toni, who (happy coincidence) is Longfellow's mistress. During their rush to Occupied Moldova (Uncle Sam is world policeman again) to get a written statement from Schofield, Jack and Toni behave like everyone else in the book, playing with shiny new technology and racing for planes as they hurry up and wait for a twisty, improbable denouement. That's the action here, aside from a Clancy-esque rattle of hardware at the start and close. Batchelor's dubious premise (would America really give its president five months off for therapy?) and his skin-deep characterizations make for a disappointing concoction. (First printing of 100,000; film rights to Cinergi; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: May 14, 1993

Sweeping, amusing, at last quite moving mock epic about a Russian spacecraft that shoots for the moon 60 hours before Apollo II lifts off from Houston—and then slowly runs out of luck when entering lunar orbit. Batchelor's staggeringly authentic re-creation of what purports to be the Russian space program matches his well-received earlier successes with historical fiction (1983's The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica and 1985's Niagara Falls-Civil War epic American Falls); here, intaglio craftsmanship shows everywhere—though detail never hinders the pace. A raw innocent, cosmonaut Peter Nevsky, 22, arrives at Starry Town, the USSR's skimpy space center, and finds himself entangled in family politics that bring on a national disaster. A major plot turn should remain veiled here, but let it be said that Peter's surprising tie with the half-insane, evil Mme. Eudaemonia Romodanovsky (whose inapt first name means Good Demon and who is being romantically pursued by the equally evil General Iagoda of State Security) brings plenty of Dostoevskian clout to the page. Iagoda at Eudaemonia's behest has Peter and his beloved Katya kidnapped, beaten, and imprisoned, and Katya dies. Meanwhile, Peter's other large tie is with his three drunken ``uncles,'' the troika of former air aces now at the top of the cosmonaut ladder and earmarked for the moon shot. Peter's father was the finest Russian air ace of WW II and the ``uncles'' are his godfathers. Batchelor spells out marvelously the many competing directorates in Russian politics circa 1963 and shows how rival agencies in a madhouse of surreal allegiances could launch secret high-weaponry wars among themselves without upsetting the nation. The Swiftian final deathtrip to the moon by Peter's three worn-out, broken-down uncles is unforgettable. Superbly bolted-together fantasy you could bang with a wrench. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

Batchelor's second volume-written in a style as frantic as a morning DJ's-in a projected quartet of fast-paced tales about spy-writer Tommy ``Tip'' Paine (Gordon Liddy is My Muse, 1990). Here, Paine (``thinking like a make-believe cowboy'') gets involved in an Asian money war when Charlie Purcells, a neighbor, comes to him for help. Purcells is being blackmailed, he claims, by South Korean gangsters: long ago, he says, when he has a Spec. 4, he sold information. Sister-in-law Lila (of ``many and varied personalities'') has been paying off the gangsters, but Charlie's in too deep. Paine, ``an artist in the league of Greene, MacArthur and Eastwood all at once,'' decides to enter the fray and ``walk the cat''-i.e., ``find a fixed point and work forward and backward.'' In so doing, he moves from New York to Singapore to Seoul and points in between, tracking down clues and potential suspects: Raj, Lila's old lover, seems implicated; and Rosie, at first a sexy, innocent governess, turns out to be an operative of the Korean CIA. The plot quickly deteriorates into an out-and-out parody, boxes opening into boxes, until everyone is a suspect, and everyone is somehow guilty. Charlie, it turns out, is trying to ``run a sting operation on everybody,'' and even Paine is double-dealing once he hooks up with two agents from the US Military Intelligence Corps. Once the dust has settled, including poisonings and murders, the South Korean government is the revealed culprit, having used Charlie before flushing him out. In the end, a sort of nihilism wins the day-''The devil does what he wants stupidly, brutally, senselessly.'' A clever hoot-something like a cross between Murder, She Wrote and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Read full book review >