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Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President Paperback – December 12, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Let's cut to the chase: yes, J.H. Hatfield alleges that, in 1972, George W. Bush was arrested for possession of cocaine and, with the help of his father, got the charges erased in exchange for performing community service. Other than that, however, Fortunate Son is a standard quickie biography of the Texas governor and frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2000 presidential race--and useful primarily because few people outside of Texas (for that matter, few people within Texas) know much about Bush's history and political record. It's all about connections, Hatfield says: if he'd had a different father, Bush "could be just another Texan who failed in the oil business and now operates a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico." The bombshell doesn't even come until a short afterword, tacked onto the already completed manuscript at the last minute, complete with a "Deep Throat" within Bush's inner circle. (Said informant throws in an almost too perfectly worded attack on the governor's hypocrisy in vigorously fighting the war on drugs: "I've known George for several years and he has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior--except when it comes to himself.")

Bush has denied the allegations, however, and it seems that Hatfield has a few dark secrets in his past. Shortly after the publication of Fortunate Son, The Dallas Morning News reported that Hatfield was a paroled felon who had attempted to hire a hit man to kill his boss. The online magazine Salon went on to add that he may have lied about his history as a freelance journalist and invented a fictitious award for a previous book. Throw in the skepticism of many journalists at the afterword's heavy reliance on anonymous sources, and Hatfield's credibility is in serious jeopardy. For his part, the author maintains that the paroled felon is a different James H. Hatfield, born the same month and year and living in the same part of the country, and if public records say otherwise, he argues: "Doesn't it sound a little bit weird to you that all of a sudden, the guy that's accusing potentially the next president of the United States of having his record expunged, all of a sudden miraculously has a record himself in the state of Texas?" It should perhaps be noted that among Hatfield's previous books is an unauthorized guide to The X-Files. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Why was this book burned? What is in it that warrants censure?

Despite a spectacular thrashing in public after Fortunate Son was first released by St. Martin's Press, author J.H. Hatfield has retracted nothing. He stands by his three sources that allege Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972. Underneath heavy fire in the media, the former publisher panicked. But as Jenny Lyn Bader points out in The New York Times, "If he's merely a convicted felon...that doesn't preclude him from being a successful writer. Indeed, St. Martin's Press underestimates the forgiveness of the American people. People might not mind a former convict writing a book as long as the book is really good."

Fortunate Son was #30 on The New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Best-Seller list. Reader responses on the web show Americans outraged at this title's suppression: some saying that this book has changed their vote, while others don't accept that a meticulous, fact-checking biographer should be "baby seal-clubbed" with allegations about his past.

Soft Skull reprints Fortunate Son to allow the voters to judge for themselves. We hope to prove that democracy can still exist despite the preferences of the privileged. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Third Edition edition (December 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887128840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887128841
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Mamatas. Author of a number of novels; Move Under Ground (Night Shade 2004, Prime 2006) and Under My Roof (Soft Skull Press, 2007), Sensation (PM Press, 2011), The Damned Highway (Dark Horse, with Brian Keene, 2011), Bullettime (CZP, 2012) Love Is the Law (Dark Horse, 2013), and The Last Weekend (PS Publishing, 2014)three collections; 3000MPH In Every Direction At Once (Prime 2003) and You Might Sleep... (Prime 2009), The Nickronomicon (Innsmouth Free Press, 2014); and the novella Northern Gothic (Soft Skull, 2001).

He is also the editor of the anthologies The Urban Bizarre (Prime 2003), Phantom #0 (Prime 2005), Spicy Slipstream Stories (with Jay Lake, Lethe 2008), and Haunted Legends (with Ellen Datlow, Tor 2010). As part of his day job, he co-edited the Locus Award nominee The Future Is Japanese (with Masumi Washington, Haikasoru 2012) and Phantasm Japan (with Masumi Washington, Haikasoru 2014)

Nick also co-edited the magazine Clarkesworld for two years, which was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy awards. Stories from Clarkesworld have been collected in a pair of anthologies: Realms and Realms 2 (Wyrm Publishing 2008 and 2009).

Nick's own short stories have appeared in literary journals such as Mississippi Review online, subTERRAIN, and Per Contra, slicks including Razor and Spex, and fantasy and horror magazines and anthologies including New Dark Voices 2, Poe's Lighthouse, ChiZine, and Lovecraft Unbound.

His fiction has been nominated for the Bram Stoker awards three times, the International Horror Guild Award, and Germany's Kurd-Laßwitz Preis. His reportage and essays have appeared in the Village Voice, The Smart Set, H+, Clamor, In These Times, various anthologies. With Kap Su Seol he translated and edited the first English edition of a firsthand account of South Korea's Kwangju massacre--Kwangju Diary (UCLA Asian Pacific, 1999).

Nick now lives in the California Bay Area, where he is editor of tradebooks for VIZ Media and edits both Japanese science fiction novels in translation and books associated with Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Alex on May 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you want to find out more about public officials, start with the books they don't want you to read. Fortunate Son, James Hatfield's swan song, amasses the singlemost informative and chilling overview of Bush the Younger, a man of wealth, privilege, and arrogance nearing Shakespearean proportions. In the wake of its destruction by its original publisher, subsequent revival by Soft Skull Press, as well as the tragic suicide of its author, this book has undergone several revisions. This third revision, featuring a new forward by Greg Palast and Mark Crispin Miller, is as outstanding as they come, the antithesis to all of the Neoconservative-sanctioned Bush books flooding the market. Approached as a cautionary tale, Fortunate Son's enormous scope is as insightful as it is well-written. An amazing work by an author whose brilliance resonates through every chapter.
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147 of 161 people found the following review helpful By "truthandjustice" on September 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
As with any book, like Al Franken's, "Lies....", any attempt to prevent it from being published, makes people want to know why, and that is why I read this book. It is well researched, there are pages and pages of sources to back up his statements. He had tried numerous times to talk to Bush about the book, but was ignored and then he and his family were threatened, they even knew the baby's name, if he published the book. Now that really got my interest. When I started to read the book I was puzzled by their actions. He didn't sound biased, in fact, as you read about Bush in his childhood you got the feeling he kind a liked him. Bush was a little wild growing up, drank a lot and chased women, which a good portion of young men do at that time in their lives. There's even a few stories, if he had wanted to, he could have used malice, but he didn't, in fact, I ended up grinning at a couple of his antics. He was writing a biography and tried to write it as accurate and truthful as he knew how. He told about Bush's drinking problems, how losing his little sister hurt him, about him accepting Jesus and his turning to sobriety and his business deals, etc. As Bush matured, we get a look at a different person, one who doesn't act so christian. The man he has turned into is one that is downright scary for the people of our country. Through the name and position of his father, we find that young Bush is rescued and backed financially by moneyed people. People with money who expected to be rewarded for their generosity and that is repeated over and over. This book clearly shows us an accurate picture of the man in the White House.Read more ›
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86 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Prof. Dragon on April 14, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of those books you will love if you don't like the Bush family and their politics. The prose is engaging; The plot turns razor sharp corners at high speed; The revelations are overwhelming.
The questions I asked myself after reading the book are:
Why should I care if the author had a checkered backround?
How many of the facts are true? The ones I could check are.
How did the Bush family manage to suppress the stories in the book?
Why have other politicians been vilified publicly for fewer and less serious infractions?
This is a book as revealing about the political system as it is about the Bush family. By the way, "W" does seem to be a sympathetic if somewhat flawed person in this book which makes one ask why all the hypocracy in trying to suppress it?
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the book that (in its last chapter) documents with excruciating detail Dubya's arrest for cocaine possession and subsequent community service punishment...and how he got the records destroyed as governor by taking the unprecedent action of issuing a new driver's license to himself and essentially erasing himself as a person in Texas prior to that time. Devastating and brilliant!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Cancel Account on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I haven't seen this sort of in-depth investigative reporting seen since the Watergate scandal of the early 1970's. Hatfield gives us a taste of what "Bush the Man" will mean as President of the United States...and it is a very disturbing picture indeed. In this latest edition, the author details his own experiences in the Texas legal system, where he was arrested and convicted of a felony while the rich perpetuator of the scheme was never even investigated by the state. Based on these experiences, Hatfield asserts that George W. Bush is a benefactor of a very lopsided system of justice, a system where minorities, the poor and just about anyone without the right connections goes to jail while the members of the Texas elite get away with murder. You'll have to read the book yourself to see if you agree with Mr. Hatfield!
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By William Hare on November 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
After J.H. Hatfield's book on George W. Bush and family had reached The New York Times bestseller list before its initial run, publisher St. Martin's Press announced that it was withdrawing publication. George Bush I was seen on national television and snarling that the book was "garbage." That is what happens when 1) individuals have more clout than they deserve, and 2) they are unable to refute the message of the author, and so they attack the messenger, an old trick, this time exercised by the candidate who gave us a campaign predicated on Willie Horton and the mandatory pledge of allegiance.
The book was fortunately brought out by a smaller company with the integrity to let the message be sent to those who wish to read it. What inflamed the Bushes was that Hatfield dared to write the unthinkable, posing the issue that Bush II had been convicted of drug possession and that an unexplained period of community service in a Houston ghetto at a time when he was devoting himself to hedonistic hellraising appeared suspiciously out of character. Hatfield's suspicions were confirmed by the fact that Bush refused to discuss any questions dealing with his life prior to his twenty-sixth birthday, a stark departure from expectations concerning Bill Clinton and his Oxford University days, along with whether or not he inhaled.
The Bushes feared this book not because they believed its contents constituted "garbage" but because the record was clear that a candidate for the highest office in the land had led a dissolute life in which family influence served as a launching pad to great political success. George II's family contacts led to dealmaking with the deep pockets of corporate America along with the oil patch elite.
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