Exploration of the deepening friendship between two contrasting Western leaders at a time of perilous Soviet brinkmanship.
A prolific British-American biographer who grew up in Washington, D.C., Sandford departs from his usual subjects from the world of arts and entertainment (Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, 2011, etc.), providing a comparative portrait of two consummate politicians who helped mend the “special relationship” that had soured during the Suez Crisis. Harold Macmillan (1894-1986), a middle-class publisher’s son with a doting American mother, had acceded as British prime minister in the wake of Anthony Eden’s resignation in 1956 and had already been trying to mend fences with the frank President Dwight Eisenhower. With his election in 1960, President John Kennedy, more than two decades Macmillan’s junior, was just the brash, charming and intellectual personality to foil and complement his more formal counterpart’s “mandarin inscrutability.” Sandford delights in contrasting the two characters, ancient and modern, rendering engaging reading through the alarming crises that erupted during the course of Kennedy’s administration. Over numerous visits and increasingly warm communications between the “dear friends,” the two leaders had to work together to manage Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s blustery threats in Berlin and Cuba, where the United States’ highly secretive Bay of Pigs debacle of April 1961 had already chastened the American administration. While Kennedy did not confer with Macmillan before the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, he was “extraordinarily receptive to British counsel,” despite British criticism of Macmillan as “passive” and “supine.” Sandford has an effective sense of character development as the leaders moved from one embroilment to the next.
Crisp personal portraits of two leaders (and their wives) shaping the new world order.