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Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full Hardcover – October 23, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Recently convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice, former Hollinger International chairman and newspaper magnate Black (Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom) is better positioned than most men to chronicle the power and disgrace experienced by Richard Nixon. Black is a versatile and thorough biographer who brings not only sympathy but eloquent clarity to his task. The result is a vibrant narrative of personal and political accomplishment that, though great and heroically achieved, was often marred by self-inflicted wounds springing from personal paranoia. Black is at his best portraying the many contradictions in Nixon's personal makeup and political history. The Nixon who most fascinates Black is the firebrand cold warrior who (in partnership with Henry Kissinger) went on to invent the notion of detente and eventually opened relations with China. As Black shows, Nixon's duality followed him into his postpresidential years. The tireless son of Quakers methodically sought after Watergate to rebuild his reputation as a statesman by issuing carefully crafted publications and granting strategically timed interviews. Black's superb volume, incorporating much new research, is an important and worthy addition to the literature. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In the thousand and fifty pages of this biography by a fallen media baron of a fallen President, few events are neglected and many are well told. But Black, attempting a reconsideration of his subject, merely provides an exculpatory gloss for seemingly every grimy facet of Nixon’s career. He presents the 1968 "Southern strategy" as a principled stand against Northern hypocrisy. On Vietnam, his invocations of "insolent" Communists, their "witless dupes," and "child grenade carriers" (as he refers to those murdered at My Lai) take on a deranged air; he unwittingly provides an object lesson in the kind of thinking that mired America there. Interestingly, given what Black refers to in the acknowledgments as his own "serious judicial problems," he argues that Nixon’s best move in Watergate would have been to surreptitiously delete damaging parts of the tapes and then make up a cover story—"whatever he wanted." Hoping to be Nixon’s redeemer, Black comes off as his apologist.
Copyright © 2007 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1St Edition edition (October 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485191
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 2.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on October 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is pure conjecture, but I wouldn't be too surprised if this turns out to be how Conrad Black actually does write his biographies.

Step 1 - Pick a giant.
Step 2 - Write a first draft praising the giant's achievements and qualities.
Step 3 - Write, from scratch, a second draft attacking the giant from all sides, finding his every fault, his every weakness.
Step 4 - Tone down both drafts.
Step 5 - Combine both drafts in strict chronological order, mixing the praises with the criticisms.

And what we get is a very fair, very balanced biography, in this case of Richard Nixon, perhaps the first definitive one volume biography of the 37th President of the United States.

It is one thing to criticize those in power and quite another to wield it power oneself. Black has wielded power and this gives perspective and considerable authority to his work.

Like his biography of Franklin Roosevelt, this biography of Nixon should rank as one of the great works of critical praise. To pick the obvious example of Watergate, Black evaluates Nixon by concluding his "conduct was blameworthy, but the response to it was extreme". An accurate judgement for an event that "resulted in no theft, no injury, no property damage, no useful espionage".

And yet Black is often mystified by Nixon's "failure to grasp the realities of ... the political problems" especially given Nixon's known political saviness. In general, however, Black is praiseworthy. He lauds Nixon's trip to China, he corrects the record and enthusiastically credits Nixon with ending America's involvement in the Viet Nam war. Black's stance reflects the historical importance of the Nixon presidency.

The biggest surprise for me was learning how pro-civil rights Nixon had been.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By hibernicus707 on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The length of "Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full" (1,152 pages) should surprise no one. Richard Nixon served in both houses of the U.S. Congress and was elected Vice President of the United States- all before the age of 40. No one has appeared on a national ticket more often (5 times, equaled only by FDR), nor held national office longer (13-1/2 years).

No single book can tell the whole story. However, Conrad Black's biography of Richard Nixon has many virtues to recommend it. It is very well written. The rhythms, diction and idioms of Black's Anglo-Canadian English lend a freshness to the text without calling attention to themselves. Black sometimes uses a turn of phrase that is a bit unusual to the American "ear"-- yet after a split-second it seems absolutely right and true. At his best, Black is capable of sentences that rival Gibbon's, though he is never less than clear and engaging, with flashes of humor and irony. The book is well-documented, but could use closer editing here and there. (In a couple of places, brief "quotes" from famous speeches by FDR and Nixon are, in fact, paraphrases- though the meaning remained unchanged.)

A particular strength of this biography is that it lends proportion and perspective to the various periods and issues of Nixon's long career. Black gives fresh accounts of all-but-forgotten events, such as the Nixons' physical courage when attacked by violent mobs on their state visit to Venezuela in 1958. Black also provides some insights into the important relationships of Nixon's professional life- Eisenhower, the Kennedys, Kissinger and others- without resort to psychoanalytic pretensions or lurid speculation. The book's final pages form a summary of Nixon's career- more generous than some accounts, though not less accurate.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey E. Carr on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading Presidential biographies over the last few years beginning with Washington and just completed this one on Nixon. This one by Conrad Black is an excellent read (his one FDR is also excellent)!

The author takes the approach of giving you detailed information and facts and allows you to decide whether decisions and actions were good, bad, indifferent, etc.

Certainly Nixon abused his presidency, but so did the other Presidents in the 1960's (JFK and LBJ), and Black doesn't let that fact go unnoticed.

If you are looking for a quick summary of Nixon's life and presidency this is not the book for you. If you are looking, however, for an exhaustive biography of Nixon this is the book for you.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John B. Erthein on September 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Conrad Black's biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thought his bio about Richard Nixon would be worth reading. The subject matter is certainly interesting (both the man and the times of Richard Nixon) and I think Black is an engaging writer. This had the potential of being a solid contribution to understanding Richard Nixon from a generally but not completely sympathetic perspective.

Unfortunately, there are some huge mistakes in this book that show a complete lack of research and/or basis in fact. Two of the most glaring errors are as follows. On page 1007, he briefly mentions Jimmy Carter becoming frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976. Black makes the incredible, frankly unbelievable claim that Carter's "main rivals" were Edmund Muskie and John Glenn. WHAT!!??? Neither Muskie nor Glenn ran for the 1976 Democratic nomination. Carter's main opponents were Henry Jackson, Morris Udall, and later on, Jerry Brown and Frank Church. George Wallace was also a significant contender. How Black came up with Muskie and Glenn is totally beyond me. Can anyone explain this?

Another whopper, a really bizarre one, comes on page 1049, where he states that Nixon had "great empathy for [Ronald Reagan's] decline in his eighties as an Alzheimer's sufferer." Nixon was a smart man, but Reagan was not publicly diagnosed with Alzheimer's until after Nixon died. How would Nixon have known about Reagan having Alzheimer's? Did he suspect something? Did the Reagans tell him privately in early 1994? This was just strikes me as a really weird claim by Mr. Black.

I caught several other astounding mistakes when Black discussed election results and the like.
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