Revisiting the history of the ’70s with our favorite cast of characters.
Mallon casts a wide political net, starting at the time of the Watergate break-in and ending (except for an epilogue) just after the time Nixon resigned. In between he reconstructs the whole insalubrious episode and how it played out for the prime suspects. Players like Presidential Aide Fred LaRue are also given prominent space, and there’s a special affection Mallon seems to have for Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s hapless secretary (or Executive Assistant, as she became) who notoriously erased 18 minutes of taped conversations in the Oval Office...or did she? Other favorites include Martha Mitchell, whose boozy garrulity got her husband, Attorney General John Mitchell, into even deeper trouble. Mallon takes us to the salons and dinner parties of the Highly Connected, like Alice Roosevelt Longworth, where the unfolding of sordid incidents serves as relish to the meals. Pat Nixon emerges as a sympathetic character, disturbed by her husband’s machinations yet powerless to stop—or even to comprehend—them. We witness the hubris and self-satisfaction of Nixonites as Sam Ervin is named to head the investigating committee. (He’s dismissed as an “old, unenergetic southerner who lacked any particular animus toward Nixon”). Elliot Richardson is ingratiating, whipsmart and super-ambitious—and craves even more political power when Spiro Agnew resigns in disgrace. And we’re reintroduced to characters time has almost forgotten: Leon Jaworski, Judge John Sirica and Howard Hunt, who frequently consumes milk to keep at bay effects of a troubling ulcer.
While billed as a novel, this book reads more like a documentary of a fascinating yet unlamented time.