WATERGATE'S FORGOTTEN HERO

FRANK WILLS, NIGHT WATCHMAN

A remarkably well-researched and definitive account of an unheralded American hero.

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A historian explores the life of a forgotten 20th-century hero in this biography.

In the plethora of works on the 1970s and the Watergate scandal, Frank Wills is often only mentioned in passing (and even then, rarely named) or relegated to obscurity in footnotes. Yet, as the 24-year-old security guard who first discovered evidence of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C., Wills played a singular role in the unraveling of America’s biggest political scandal. In this absorbing biography, Henig offers the first serious and systematic examination of Watergate through the lens of Wills. Despite the historical marginalization of Wills, the African American security guard became a national sensation as Richard Nixon’s presidency crumbled in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in. From making the cover of Jet magazine to appearing in nationally televised interviews, Wills had a brief flirtation with fame. But his celebrity quickly turned into a subsequent lifetime of tragedy where he “lived in the shadow of Watergate” and never missed an “opportunity to express his bitterness and disappointment” with his involvement in the scandal. Essentially blackballed from Washington security jobs by employers who resented him for not keeping quiet or who feared the loss of federal funding by retaliatory Republicans if they hired him—and undermined by the actions of his lawyer/agent in the heyday of his fame—Wills spent the latter decades of his life in poverty. After contracting AIDS, he suffered an early death from lymphoma and a brain tumor. Marshaling an impressive body of research that utilizes private interviews with Wills conducted by author Alex Haley, conversations with the security guard’s family and friends, and a myriad of archival and print sources, this book convincingly portrays the Watergate figure as a 20th-century hero. In addition, the work avoids the trappings of hagiography in its acknowledgments of Wills’ personal shortcomings. And while some of the tangential passages of historical context are at times more distracting than illuminating to Wills’ story, this is a powerful, tragic biography of a man who, in the words of Bob Woodward, was “the only one in Watergate who did his job perfectly.”

A remarkably well-researched and definitive account of an unheralded American hero.

Pub Date: May 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4766-8480-2

Page Count: 213

Publisher: McFarland

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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