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Watergate: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Mallon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From one of our most esteemed historical novelists, a remarkable retelling of the Watergate scandal, as seen through a kaleidoscope of its colorful perpetrators and investigators.
 
For all the monumental documentation that Watergate generated—uncountable volumes of committee records, court transcripts, and memoirs—it falls at last to a novelist to perform the work of inference (and invention) that allows us to solve some of the scandal’s greatest mysteries (who did erase those eighteen-and-a-half minutes of tape?) and to see this gaudy American catastrophe in its human entirety.
 
In Watergate, Thomas Mallon conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency through the urgent perspectives of seven characters we only thought we knew before now, moving readers from the private cabins of Camp David to the klieg lights of the Senate Caucus Room, from the District of Columbia jail to the Dupont Circle mansion of Theodore Roosevelt’s sharp-tongued ninety-year-old daughter (“The clock is dick-dick-dicking”), and into the hive of the Watergate complex itself, home not only to the Democratic National Committee but also to the president’s attorney general, his recklessly loyal secretary, and the shadowy man from Mississippi who pays out hush money to the burglars.
 
Praised by Christopher Hitchens for his “splendid evocation of Washington,” Mallon achieves with Watergate a scope and historical intimacy that surpasses even what he attained in his previous novels, as he turns a “third-rate burglary” into a tumultuous, first-rate entertainment.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Guest Review: James Ellroy on Watergate

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed L.A. Quartet:  The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, and White Jazz.

I was thrilled, captivated, deeply moved and wholly subsumed by the world that Tom Mallon created. Washington D.C. from '72 to '74 circumscribes farce, tragedy, a reimagining of the political landscape and the reinstigation of grandeur into the fictional body politic. The book is fever dream, wolf whistle and history as plain and simple human longing; the book encapsulates no less than everything. I finished the last page and wept for an hour; I remain stunned 48 hours later. The laughter, the horror, the pathos, the tawdry drama of small people and their fatuous lusts and drives--ever falling short--but, somehow--achieving a transcendental interconnectedness. Watergate is certainly a masterpiece. More importantly, it is a concurrently credible and fantastic subversion of all our perceived notions of a smugly overreported event and an underscrutinized time and place. By casting Richard Nixon as heroic and as misunderstood as the man considered himself to be, Tom has reset the time-lock on every didactic and dismissive polemic and psych-bio ever written about our 37th president. Here, Nixon himself achieves grandeur; here, he will live as the embodiment of glorious intransigence and twisted courage.

Review

“We’re propelled forward and kept highly entertained by the colorful characters, the delicious insider details, the intelligence of the dialogue…What Mallon captures particularly well is the fundamental weirdness and mystery at the center of the scandal…It appears that Mallon’s primary goal, one he achieves with great finesse, is to make the portrayals of his characters as believable as possible.” –New York Times Book Review

“In [Mallon’s] practiced hands—this is not his first fling at historical fiction—the festering mess of 1972-74 becomes almost fun, actually funny, and instructive about how history can be knocked sideways by small mediocrities…Mallon uses his literary sensibility and mordant wit to give humanity to characters who in their confusions and delusions staggered across the national stage…let Mallon be your archaeologist, excavating a now distant past that reminds us that things could be very much worse. They once were.” –George Will, Washington Post

Watergate manages to combine extensive research with the tools of fiction to provide a new perspective on an iconic episode in American history. It is sufficiently faithful to the facts to offer a compelling introduction for those who missed this astounding story as it unfolded in the early 1970s, and a fresh view for those who haven't thought about it in years…Watergate is the sort of book that will ensnare you in its web of intrigue…Mallon manages to deftly capture the peculiar mix of unbridled ambition, bumbling ineptitude, hubris, cluelessness and dishonesty that sparked such an all-consuming crisis in American government.” –NPR.org
 
“In this stealth bull’s-eye of a political novel, Mr. Mallon invests the Watergate affair with all the glitter, glamour, suave grace and subtlety that it doesn’t often receive. Written with the name-dropping panache of a Hollywood tell-all, it seamlessly embellishes reportage with fiction.” –Janet Maslin, New York Times 10 Favorite Books of 2012 

“Mesmerizing …While clarifying the maze of connections among elected officials, political advisers, cronies and assorted power-mad or ideologically driven Nixonites, Mallon keeps the narrative moving at thriller-novel pace. Yet his writing always soars far above that genre's cliches…Like the best historical novelists, Mallon uses great public events as superstructure for classic themes of ambition and power, rivalry and envy, love lost and yearned for. In this sense, Watergate succeeds brilliantly. Like them or not, these tormented characters throb with life.” –Newsday

“Fiction of a remarkably high order…Fiction, to be sure. But just as acceptable as any of the factual explanations history has left us with.” –Washington Times 

"It already can be said with some certainty that no Watergate retread will be as imaginative or as entertaining as Watergate:  A Novel…Mallon, a master of the genre knows the dance between history and fiction…Full of telling, vivid detail…Mallon gets each of the characters with perfect pitch." –The Boston Globe
 
"A pleasurably perverse and darkly comedic thriller…a beguilingly intricate structure." –The Seattle Times
 
"An entertaining and surprisingly touching look at the 37th president's self-inflicted downfall…Watergate is finely polished. Gore Vidal and E. L. Doctorow were instrumental in resuscitating the historical novel genre in this country. Now that their best days are past, it is comforting to know that the patient is thriving in Dr. Mallon's capable hands." –The Miami Herald
 
"Brashly entertaining…Though thoroughly based on fact, this is unrepentantly a work of fiction…[Mallon's] characters still have the ability to shock. He regards them with humor but also with compassion, as their plans and hopes are ruined by chance and unruly human emotions." –The Columbus Dispatch

“An observant and interior study of power and how men and women manipulate it differently... a product of thorough research.” –Barnes and Noble.com

“A clever comic novel…Imaginative fiction can tell a deeper truth than writing that sticks to demonstrable fact.” –Slate

“If ever a historical event was worthy of a comic novel, it’s Watergate, and Mallon, with several outstanding historical novels to his credit (most recently, Fellow Travelers), has the skills to write it. What a cast of characters we meet!...Mallon writes with such swagger that it all seems new again. A sure winner, for its subject and Mallon’s proven track record as a historical novelist, and because it’s good.” –Library Journal

“Revisiting the history of the ’70s with our favorite cast of characters…While billed as a novel, this book reads more like a documentary of a fascinating yet unlamented time.” –Kirkus

“It’s a brilliant presentation, subtle and sympathetic but spiked with satire that captures [Nixon] in all his crippling self-consciousness, his boundless capacity for self-pity and re-invention…Mallon writes with such wit and psychological acuity as he spins this carousel of characters caught in a scandal that’s constantly fracturing into new crises.” –Washington Post  

“In this stealth bull’s-eye of a political novel, Thomas Mallon invests the Watergate affair with all the glitter, glamour, suave grace and subtlety that it doesn’t often get.” –New York Times

“Mallon, astute and nimble, continues his scintillating, morally inquisitive journey through crises great and absurd in American politics by taking on Watergate…Mallon himself is deliciously witty. But it is his political fluency and unstinting empathy that transform the Watergate debacle into a universal tragicomedy of ludicrous errors and malignant crimes, epic hubris and sorrow.” –Booklist, starred review

Mallon would seem to have the right mix of historical understanding and fresh whimsy to portray the craziness that was Watergate.” –Library Journal Seasonal Roundup

“Fascinating reading—and a surprisingly sympathetic treatment of Richard M. Nixon—it’s tough to top an account that features regular appearances by the tart and imperious Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Bonus: the author’s version of how (and why) those 18½ minutes of Oval Office tapes got erased.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

“Within the framework of the true, Mallon also has to find the plausible, which he has done in satisfying ways… Mallon renders the era, the people and the place in vivid detail.” –Los Angeles Times  

“It is perhaps the unique accomplishment of Watergate, the excellent new novel by Thomas Mallon, to depict Nixon not as a moral to a story, a symptom of political pathology, or a walking character flaw, but as a man…The great reward in reading this wise and thoughtful and subtle novel is that it reminds us that our leaders are only human beings.” –Washington Monthly 

“A master of the historical novel turns Watergate into a dark comedy, rotating point of view among the supporting cast, with Nixon as a sort of Malvolio—comical, pitiable, tragic.” –Newsweek, The Daily Beast 
 
Watergate is the fruit of canny artistic decisions that transform the crude fabric of bygone events into the stuff of fine—and fun—historical fiction…The author inhabits each of the characters with careful attention, deft humor and unstinting sympathy, mimicking habits of mind, foregrounding preoccupations and sketching in life stories as he moves the action forward.” –Washington Independent Review of Books

Watergate feels true, even in the places that it might not be. More important, it's wildly entertaining from beginning to end, a compelling evocation of tragedy and farce, much like the scandal itself.” –Fort Worth Star Telegram  

“This fictionalized version of the events surrounding the 1972 Watergate break-in proves that truth is at least as interesting as fiction, if sometimes even more incredible.” –Christian Science Monitor, 10 novels to watch for in 2012

“Entertaining and warm-hearted.” –USA Today 

“It’s a testament to Mallon’s skill that he is able to balance the comedy and the tragedy, to show just how tragic these events must have seemed to their actors without ever letting us forget how farcical they appear with the benefit of hindsight…Watergate is a delightful novel—well written, well paced, and enjoyable. It achieves the main goal of historical fiction: it shows us just how strange, and how completely familiar, the past can be.” –Commonweal Magazine 

“The ruthless, paranoid, sometimse farcically inept architects of America’s biggest political scandal seem more colorfully real than ever in this fictional portrayal.” –O Magazine 

 “Terrific…Mallon’s major achievement as he takes us from the eve of the break-in to Nixon’s resignation is to turn the scandal’s real-life players from yesteryear’s TV gargoyles into human beings…Two cheers for nostalgia.” –American Prospect 

&...


Product Details

  • File Size: 1193 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307378721
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0050DIW9S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,319 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! January 20, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With all that's been discovered, exposed, reported and chronicled on Watergate, writing yet another book, let alone a novel on this scandal seems an arduous if not impossible task. We all have our opinions and memories; our tally of the good guys and bad guys; and even a list of "What ifs?" All true, but Thomas Mallon's book is both fascinating and scary - not Hitchcock Psycho scary - but scary in how "real" this novel reads - regardless if it is "fiction".

The author uses an interesting mix of narrators - some well-known, some not so much - to tell the "story" of this third rate burglary, its aftermath and the subsequent downfall and resignation of President Richard Nixon. We meet Howard Hunt, ex-CIA, one of the burglars and maybe a little mentally unbalanced. Fred LaRue, good friend of John Mitchell, presidential aide and White House "bag-man". The First Lady Pat Nixon and Presidential Secretary Rose Mary Woods - both of these women exceptionally well developed in this book. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the elderly first daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, acerbic, still mentally sharp and the only one who seems to be able to connect the tragic dots of this scandal. (Alice nicknames John Dean the TST - the tortoise shell(ed) tattler.)

Elliot Richardson, the attorney general removed during "The Saturday Night Massacre" - and former Secretary of Defense, HEW and Undersecretary of State - spends some time in the spotlight, and is on the receiving end of a few barbs. (I don't know much of Richardson's "history" to make a call, but that he is presented here as "opportunistic" is an understatement.) John and Martha Mitchell also each play a role - Mr. Mitchell, Nixon confidante, former AG, head of CREEP, and the long suffering husband who took his eye off the ball; Mrs.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Back when I was a young university student who had been ardently behind George McGovern for President in 1972, I was greatly disappointed that Richard Nixon was re-elected by overwhelming landslide. However, it never occurred to me at the time to equate President Richard Nixon with the headlines that were burning across all the major national newspapers-headlines concerning a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel.

As the ignoble tale of five men acting under the directions of the president's closest aides unfolded before our disbelieving eyes, as a corrosive trail of illegal wiretapping, illicit fundraising, devious cover-up, destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, perfidy, calumny and just plain old dirty tricks lead straight to the oval office, I along with the rest of the American public was shook to my very core by the infamous scandal which tarnished the image of the highest elected position in the nation, which crippled government, and which caused us to loose faith in the presidency. Most Americans, I am sure, never suspected our nation to be so susceptible and so vulnerable to such crime.

That President Nixon could even allow such corrupt and covert perversions of executive will left most of us distrustful and pessimistic of the executive branch of government. I think we all grieved over the Watergate affair and wondered how the nation could ever recover from something as tragic and disgraceful...but we did!

And now, forty years later, we can finally look back with a different eye and see through the drama of history and perhaps find some comic relief in it thanks to author Thomas Mallon.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Third Rate Burglary February 7, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Fiction as history seems like a contradiction in terms. In the Author's Note to Harlot's Ghost, Norman Mailer suggests the opposite: "Novelists have a unique opportunity - they can create superior histories out of an enhancement of the real, the unverified and the wholly fictional." In Watergate, Thomas Mallon admits to "enhancing" the real especially in the case of main character Fred LaRue. The reader must decide if such enhancement reveals or obscures.

Mallon's narrative technique is an interesting one. Eschewing almost all of the best known Watergate locales (the Senate hearings, Executive Office discussions, the Washington Post newsroom, etc), the author follows the unraveling scandal in the stories of second or third level participants. The moral dilemma of John Mitchell's bagman Fred LaRue is portrayed as is that of Saturday Night Massacre victim Elliot Richardson. Less attention is paid to Richard Nixon than to wife Pat (who is finally humanized by Mallon) and to Secretary Rose Mary Woods (whom the author cannot help). The marriages of John and Martha Mitchell and of Howard and Dorothy Hunt take center stage. Most interestingly, Nixon confidant and daughter of Teddie Roosevelt Alice Longworth brings historical continuity to this retold tale.

I was a Watergate junkie in the seventies. I detested Nixon and, recovering from a leg broken playing baseball, I watched the Ervin hearings live each day and parts of the replay in the evening. Even so, there is much that is new to me in Mallon's book. The problem may be for those readers who are not overly familiar with all that transpired in the early seventies. The structure of the novel assumes the reader knows what is happening offstage where, in fact, the most significant Watergate actions occur.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Imaginative approach to Watergate, well done.
Published 10 days ago by Paul Drew-Bear
5.0 out of 5 stars What's true and what's not?
What's true and what's not? That's the attraction of "Watergate: A Novel." I've read it three times and find it endlessly fascinating , particularly because--as someone who... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard H.
3.0 out of 5 stars "Memory Lane"
A wonderfully written "expose" of a bunch of very bad people including Tricky Dicky Nixon and his entourage. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Leon Trotsky
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty super fun
Kind of an alternate history. Breezy, gossipy, name-dropping comedy of manners involving the scum of the earth, but they're sweet! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard S. Wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars even when it seems like it should
Hannah Arendt created the phrase "The Banality of Evil" in her description of Adolf Eichmann at his trial and I think borrowing that phrase is apropos for both Watergate... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Howard Beale
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
What a novel !! the anecdotes alone are worth the price of the bokk
Published 3 months ago by cv60
5.0 out of 5 stars Arlo Guthrie's Presidential Rag Updated!
Where does Watergate rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best. Highlighted all the many things I had forgotten. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kristi Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
Holds interest well. Entertaining and raised some interesting points about the whole Watergate Affair. Reads well - couldn't' put it down.
Published 4 months ago by Nancy Mikrut
3.0 out of 5 stars which is in some ways a sign of good writing, but I missed the kind of...
an experience, perhaps, of what the real characters in this "real" drama were thinking and feeling, but the characters were depressing and shallow, and the moments of any... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mary Lynn Kittelson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Brought back a lot of memories. Covered a tough time for our country. Kept you interested throughout.
Published 4 months ago by Sam
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