Dramatic accounts of assassination attempts and other brushes with death in the lives of select serving or future chief executives.
Four U.S presidents have been assassinated while in office, but considerably more have had narrow squeaks, as Spradlin, writing with a sharp eye for colorful quotes and details, chronicles. Most incidents occurred before or after their terms—George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, were targeted by assassins in wartime; young officers John Kennedy and George H.W. Bush were likewise nearly captured in the Pacific in World War II; Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest on a campaign stop (and went on to deliver a 90-minute speech after examining his spittle to make sure his lung hadn’t been punctured); and Navy officer Jimmy Carter led a crew tasked with shutting down an unstable nuclear reactor (“I had radioactive urine for six months,” he recalls). The author includes substantial asides on the motives and fates of the would-be assassins, significant figures such as detective Allan Pinkerton and his gifted associate Kate Warne, and like high-interest topics. Nearly everyone here is or was white, but though the author’s nods to Washington’s secret agents “Hercules Mulligan and his slave, Cato” are clumsy, he does note that the GIs who blew the whistle on the Eisenhower plot by capturing a trio of German agents were African American.
Oddly compelling tales of disaster averted, sometimes miraculously. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)