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The Bloviator: Sex, Drugs, Fraud, Suicide, Murder, Scandal, Adultery, Quackery, Corruption, Superstition and President Warren G. Harding. Paperback – August 2, 2012
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"At times a rambling incoherent mess - that's President Harding, the novel is brilliant." - Colophon Quarterly
"A Brilliant Mix of Fact and Fiction." - New Booklist
About the Author
JIM YOAKUM has been a professional writer for over thirty years. He is the author of non-fiction books, novels and is the screenwriter of three produced feature films. He has contributed articles to numerous magazines, websites and periodicals including Rolling Stone, The Onion and Goldmine. He was former writing partners with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python and is U.S. Curator of the Graham Chapman Archives. He is also a professional musician. Some of his other writings can be seen at thearchivest.wordpress.com.
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Amidst all of this, Yoakum injects a number of fictitious elements to the story, some based on speculation, others that are pure invention. These include a hallucinating (or possibly haunted) president, a first lady attuned to mystics and bent on becoming the first female President of the United States, a scheming and deceitful villainous Attorney-General (well, that's mostly true), and a number of steamy sex scenes one might expect from a lascivious President, but which one might not expect from some of the other characters in Harding's circle of influence. The ending is also something that probably never happened, that's all I'll say about that.
There are a number of mysteries contained in the true story of President Warren Gamaliel Harding and these are woven into this novel. Why did two of Harding's associates commit suicide? Why did Harding die suddenly after a group of reputable doctors predicted that he was over the worst of his illness? Why were his personal papers burned after his demise? And why did the first lady insist that there would be no autopsy after Harding's death? These true aspects of the life and death of Warren Harding all add to the intrigue and appeal of this book.
Yoakum stays true to the known history, and wonderfully embellishes the unknown, decorating the already colorful characters with the stuff of Dashell Hamett (who makes a cameo in the book). He has ably researched his characters and tries not to deviate from what is known about them in composing his fiction. As the author notes, the strengths and weaknesses of the real-life characters are spectacular in themselves, almost unbelievably so. The crooked and vain are extraordinarily so, and so are the virtuous. Yoakum exploits this brilliantly. We know what's coming, that is, we know that Harding dies in San Francisco, and yet the novel never loses its sense of mystery.
Parts of this book can be tedious to the reader, as Yoakum explains much of Harding's background in great detail on aspects unnecessary for the story. Or perhaps this is tedious only to readers who are history geeks and know all of this already. There were also a few minor editing errors in the copy of the book that I read. These should not distract from a real-life mystery, so fascinating that it seems to originate within the realm of fiction. Because of the unbelievable elements contained in the life and death of Warren Harding, it is a story that requires a master story-teller and it is one that is not easily enmeshed with fiction. Yoakum ably confronts and meets these challenges and produces an enjoyable tale in the process.