The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford
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Amateurishly written, disappointingly superficial biography of Sara Jane Moore.

Freelance journalist Spieler has a rich subject in the psychologically disturbed middle-aged housewife and erstwhile FBI informant who fired twice at President Gerald Ford as he left the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on September 22, 1975. Not long after her arrest, Moore contacted the author, then a reporter at the Los Angeles News Journal, and the two had sporadic contact during the next 28 years. In 2003, Moore suggested that Spieler write a book about her, but the writer soon balked at her ground rules and they fell out. Unfortunately, this did not dissuade Spieler from going ahead with her slipshod biography. She interviewed a mere handful of Moore’s acquaintances and family members, most of whom apparently had little to say. Her text leaves yawning gaps in Moore’s story; one 11-year period is glossed over with the excuse, “attempts to find documentation on the decade that followed were futile.” Instead, Spieler includes largely tangential chapters on San Francisco’s radical underground and the FBI’s counterintelligence program; in the final chapters, she quotes liberally from court transcripts for pages at a time. The biography does little to explain Moore’s motives for the assassination attempt; readers will come away knowing little more about her than they might get from the book’s dust jacket. Jess Bravin’s exhaustively researched Squeaky (1997), the biography of another would-be Ford assassin, ably brought to life the violent and chaotic era in which Lynette Fromme lived. Spieler’s scene-setting, by contrast, is trite in the extreme: “Bob Dylan wrote those now-famous lines, ‘the times, they are a changin’ and true to those words, Sara Jane changed with the times.”

Moore’s complex and fascinating story deserves better treatment.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-230-61023-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2008