THE WHOLE TRUTH by John Ehrlichman
Kirkus Star

THE WHOLE TRUTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

No, not the whole truth about Watergate--at least not directly. Again, as in The Company (1976), Ehrlichman dramatizes some key Watergate relationships and dilemmas without using Watergate specifics; and again he turns out to be a competent storyteller--and a good deal better-than-competent when wallowing in the details of Washington dirty-dealings. Also, there's extra grab here because the scandal at hand is more than a bit reminiscent of Allende and Chile: while boozing on the Presidential yacht, Pres. Hugh Frankling--virtually bribed by a U.S. corporation with heavy Latin American interests--authorizes special aide Robin Warren to give the CIA the go-ahead on a plan to assassinate Uruguay's leftist leader and stage a coup. The coup fails, and now a Senate committee is investigating charges of CIA/White House involvement. Frankling's strategy? To deny everything, to claim that Warren phoned the CIA on his own initiative--and to doctor enough records and buy enough lies to make Warren's frame-up stick. However, Frankling is not the chief villain here; far more scabrous are the portraits of a Haldeman type, of a bald, sneaky Attorney-General (who torments his mad, alcoholic wife, obviously and unpleasantly modeled on Martha Mitchell), and, more surprisingly, of Senator Harley Oates--the Ervin-like committee head who turns out to be a cheesy, greedy hypocrite, bartering with the White House: favors in exchange for keeping the committee tame. Warren, on the other hand, is pure hero--a little like Ehrlichman, a lot like John Dean, 1000% nobler than either--and he's defended by a trio of likable super-lawyers who not only clear him but push Pres. Frankling to the brink of resignation (in a Nixonian TV speech that tops even RMN for wily chutzpah). There's more expansiveness here than some readers will want--speeches, hearings, memos--and Warren's romantic life is formula pulp. But Ehrlichman has wrapped his basic narrative flair around scores of behind-the-scenes goodies and dozens of hints of further Nixon-era nastiness--a combination that's likely to prove that The Company wasn't just a first-time-lucky fluke.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster