From Publishers Weekly
Speculation isn't history, but it's catnip to pundits and journalists like veteran CBS News reporter and commentator Greenfield (The Real Campaign), who can be excused for this romp into what ifs. He rightly says that alternative history's foundation is plausibility. And since he's read widely in the sources, his excursions into possible histories are decently anchored to the ground. In the first narrative, an actual failed attempt to assassinate JFK before his inauguration instead succeeds. LBJ takes his place, Guantánamo is wiped out by a rogue Soviet missile, and war with the U.S.S.R. is only narrowly averted. In the second narrative, Robert Kennedy isn't assassinated, beats Nixon in 1968, winds down the Vietnam War, and with no Watergate scandal, the cultural changes of the 1970s are averted. The third account has Ford winning re-election, but in 1980 it's Hart vs. Reagan, and Hart wins. Of course, there are other possible scenarios, which Greenfield doesn't discuss. And in these novelistic narratives, readers drown in excess, irrelevant detail (dinner menus, precise times of meetings, exact conversations)—all wonkish pundit stuff, and none essential to Greenfield's purpose. In the end, fun but insubstantial. (Mar.)
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Greenfield, chief political correspondent for CBS News, is also a successful novelist. Here, he tries something different: alternate history, delivering takes on three different moments in the not-so-distant American past. Not many people remember that in December 1960, President-elect Kennedy was almost assassinated. What if Richard Pavlick had gotten to Kennedy three years before Lee Harvey Oswald? Conversely, what if Robert Kennedy had not gone through the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel where Sirhan Sirhan lay in wait? And, in 1976, had Gerald Ford not made a mistake in his debate with Jimmy Carter, that election might have gone a different way. Inevitably, speculation plays a role in Greenfield�s accounts, but he bolsters possible scenarios with ancedotes, quotes, and oral histories, all of which are sourced at the end of the book. This reliance on sources is why Greenfield prefers that his work be called nonfiction, though some may disagree. Perhaps readers who remember the actual events and casts of players will be the book�s best audience, but any history buff will appreciate these fascinating reinterpertations. --Ilene Cooper