An impressive memoir with something for everyone: history and government, love and marriage, life and death.



A debut book provides an insider’s account of the Secret Service with the bonus of a spouse’s perspective.

Jan Marie Ritter opens this work on the fateful day of March 30, 1981, when President Ronald Reagan and three others were shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. This is also the moment when her two children, who are otherwise largely absent from the text, understand what their father does for a living as a member of the Secret Service. Ritter then turns back the clock to the early years of her relationship with co-author Bob, after they met in Spanish class at the University of Maryland in 1967. Of particular note is a rough period for the couple beginning in 1976, which included Bicentennial celebrations, the presidential election and inauguration, and the shah of Iran’s state visit. As Ritter notes, “The past two and a half years had been an endless action-film serial of late night call outs, long hours, no days off, and out-of-town travel.” At the end of the memoir, she circles back to the Reagan assassination attempt. Fortunately, Bob was stationed elsewhere that day, but he had been critical of a change made three years prior to the hotel’s security protocol that he felt was too risky. Though still troubled by the turn of events, he is vindicated here, along with other ideas of his that were unwisely ignored. Overall, Ritter does a respectable job of weaving the couple’s memoir into the larger narrative of a turbulent period in American history. In addition, the intricate tapestry covers a remarkable range of subjects. But her technique of presenting major national and international events through conversation rather than narration occasionally produces stilted dialogue: Bob goes on and on in long discursive paragraphs while Ritter offers clunky interjections here and there. For example, while they discuss the Jonestown Massacre, readers see this contrived exhortation: “ ‘What can we learn from this tragedy?’ I asked.” In light of relationship pressures and professional frustrations, Bob eventually decided to save his marriage and left the Secret Service. Ultimately, the authors were able to move past this period of strife and look forward to further adventures, perhaps saved for another time.

An impressive memoir with something for everyone: history and government, love and marriage, life and death.

Pub Date: April 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9888502-0-0

Page Count: 444

Publisher: Calvert Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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