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Watergate: A Novel [Hardcover]

Thomas Mallon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 21 2012

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.


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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 

&...

About the Author

Thomas Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, and Fellow Travelers, and seven works of nonfiction. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
One of our finest novelists, Thomas Mallon, has eloquently wrestled with the mystique and unknown history of the Watergate scandal and how its cover-up by zealous subordinates in the Nixon administration led to the downfall of Nixon's presidency in his latest novel,"Watergate". Told from the different perspectives of seven major characters, Mallon gives readers a cinema verite-like exploration of Watergate as seen from members of the Nixon administration as well as some long-time Republican allies. Much to my surprise, Mallon's shifts in perspective from one character to the next as the plot progresses merely strengthens the reader's understanding of their motives, as well as demonstrating the high caliber of his literary craft. By his own admission, noted elsewhere, Thomas Mallon's most fictionalized character is Fred LaRue, whose appearances are like those of some demonic herald announcing the latest misfortune of one notable character or another. I was also surprised to see Nixon portrayed somewhat sympathetically as a restless, tortured soul concerned with the great issues of State between the United States and its adversaries, most notably the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, helplessly sucked into the Watergate scandal cover-up by zealous subordinates like Colson and Haldeman; his most dignified moments occur when he decides that, for the country's sake, that he must resign from the Presidency. My most favorite character is Alice Roosevelt Longworth, whose acerbic wit nearly steals the many scenes she is in; in real life, Longworth was as much a keen observer of Washington's political scene as her fictional doppelganger demonstrates repeatedly throughout the novel. To his credit, Thomas Mallon has written a most compelling work of historical fiction that may leave readers with answers to some of their most vexing questions regarding the scandal as well as ponder new ones that remain unanswerable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent, poignant and humorous in turns Dec 11 2012
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Mallon takes the mountain of documentation and disgust that is Watergate and turns it into an enlightening and quite entertaining spectacle. Taking the perspectives of different real characters within the Watergate scandal, Mallon enlightens us by giving us various perspectives on the crisis. Each narrator is unreliable in his or her own way, but by showing them all to us, Mallon gets us closer to narrative truth. Mallon makes full use of fictional license to incorporate possible explanations for various events in the story, including a different possible explanation as to why the Watergate breakin happened in the first place.

This book is entertaining and I also think it provides some new perspective and understanding on Watergate. A fine piece of work, then.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For Aficionados Only June 21 2012
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Thankfully I have read a handful of nonfiction efforts covering the weirdness that was Watergate. This helped mentally sort the players and their stakes in the unbelievable and ultimately silly events. So having some depth of knowledge is important to the enjoyment of this fictionalized account. An effort that is very well thought-out. It is the fact that book reads like a very slow soap opera is what gives it credibility. Not every interaction between these characters is going to provide a stupendous revelation. Yet, as events unfold we are treated to a voyeuristic "could have been". It is hard to dismiss Mallon's take of what may have transpired behind the scenes. The book really moved when dealing with Pat Nixon, Alice Roosevelt, and the Hunts. Truth is stranger than fiction and these actual historic figures add to the strangeness. The author disrobes and lays bare Watergate for what it was ... both high comedy and low tragedy.
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By Len TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Who would ever have thought Richard Nixon could be a sympathetic protagonist? Who would have thought that the Watergate break-in could be considered a tempest in a teapot? Howard Hunt was sentenced to 33 months in jail for a first offence charge of a break-in, the most in judicial history. While the Watergate investigations are going on, Nixon has begun the first dialogue with China since it's revolution, He ended the Vietnam War, completed the first SALT talks with Russia regarding the proliferation of nuclear warheads and brokered peace in the Middle East. Mr. Mallon writes a convincing and strangely engaging novel comprised mostly of dialogue and minor intrigues among incidental figures who would have a huge impact on the political heritage of a figure who, if Mr. Mallon is correct, was unfairly maligned. Definitely worth a read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  99 reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! Jan. 20 2012
By JoeV - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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. Mitchell, the intoxicated, shrill, and wildly indiscreet elephant in the room and on the phone. And of course at the center of all this is Richard Nixon, who although not portrayed sympathetically by any means, is still very human here.

Just as fascinating are some of the players given bit parts in the novel. (Maybe because they're still alive, but there seems to be more to the lack of attention here than that.) G. Gordon Liddy is never on center stage and is off-handedly referred to by several of the above as a macho, overzealous, incompetent buffoon. Henry Kissinger pops in and out of the narrative - usually obsequious and insecure when he does. And just to keep the reader on his or her toes, there are several fictional characters; one of which adds a whole new dimension to Pat Nixon.

I found this an extraordinary book - maybe a tad long, but I'm not smart enough to identify what's not needed - and one where you rarely, if ever, feel the presence of the author. Not an easy task when you think about it. The only caveat I have is the amount of Watergate knowledge one brings to this book. Mallon drops the reader right into the deep end of the pool with his novel, and even with a fair bit of Watergate lore in my head I had to refer to Wikipedia several times. Still well worth the read and one folks will be talking about for some time to come.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wild and wooly ride back in a time capsule to the greatest political scandal of twentieth century America Jan. 7 2012
By Evelyn A. Getchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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. Mallon adroitly takes us on a wild and wooly ride back in a time capsule directed straight at that infamous gateway to the greatest political scandal of twentieth century America...WATERGATE.

Mallon's interpretation is a fresh and humane treatment of the Watergate scandal. He breathes new life into Watergate's long and dizzying cast of characters, allowing us to get into their minds and look at the events of the Watergate catastrophe from their perspective.

Mallon spotlights the motivations of his cast characters in the Watergate affair as well as illuminates all the possible rationalizations they have for their own behavior. We come to understand why they do what they do from a more personal, intimate level. It is obvious that Mallon has done a superb job of researching his characters, right down to the quotations from them that he has worked seamlessly into the narrative and dialogue. The narrative is so familiar and close to the surface that the fiction begins to feel that it might be true after all!

History does not overwhelm Mallon's story but acts more as a backdrop for his clever plotting into the darkly humorous and melodramatic sides of those unforgettable events. The plot and the characters of WATERGATE may be historically accurate but not necessarily distilled from the obvious, more memorable headlines of the scandal that we are most likely to recall. Instead Mallon blends history with fiction so that actual history is not distorted, just embellished to entertain us and stir our imagination with a different twist to the old extensively dissected and vigorously debated plot.

WATERGATE is very authentic and at the same time it is new and imaginative plotting as well. The Watergate affair was of course a national tragedy but another non-fiction account would bound to be just more of the same sordid reading that we have seen over and over again for the last forty years. Instead with WATERGATE we have been given an intelligently crafted, fictionalized saga of drama, pathos, intrigue, suspense, romance, crime, and gossip.

Mallon brilliantly adds deeper dimension to the real Watergate characters we already know; brings lesser known characters to the forefront to add color and nuance; and creates highly credible new characters to drive the plot of WATERGATE to an intriguing denouement.

Mallon has proven that time has not dulled Watergate in our collective memory. With his splendid novel he has given us a sophisticated account of an event that took center stage in America forty years ago and still fascinates us to this day. I could have never imagined back in those heady university days that someday I would be entertained and even thrilled by the same events that rocked us so, eroded our public trust in our elected political leaders, and challenged our valued notions about the democracy we so cherish. All I can say is: "Bravo, Thomas Mallon for Watergate: A Novel!"
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Third Rate Burglary Feb. 7 2012
By The Ginger Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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. This may make the book challenging for the casual reader.

With that caveat, I recommend this book as morality tale and effective political journalism. We once again watch amazed as an administration fritters away the most one-sided presidential election victory in history through a combination of paranoia, moral ambivalence, incompetence and bad luck. Concerned with a fantasy that Fidel Castro may be funding the DNC, the Committee to Re-Elect the President places listening devices in Democratic party headquarters and then returns to check them at a later date. The government unravels from there and the most powerful men in the world end up in prison except the President whose pardon dooms his party's chances in the next election cycle. Through all of this, no one in the administration ever ponders what the moral path should be. Jeb Magruder tells LaRue: "You know, Fred, we're not covering up a burglary, we're safeguarding world peace."

It is said that prostitutes and ugly buildings become respectable if they survive long enough for public perception to sentimentalize the object of scorn. The same may be said about errant politicians. Nixon's image seemed to improve as he aged out of the public eye and as memories of the greatest scandal in American political history faded. Mallon's book, like the movie Frost/Nixon, is an effective antidote to the tendency to forget and thus to sanitize the past.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Easily Understood by Those Who Lived Through the Watergate Fiasco Feb. 21 2012
By Keith Heapes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Without question, this novel about Watergate (1972-1974) will be more easily understood by those who were old enough in the early 1970s to remember and understand what was happening during the reelection bid of then President Richard Nixon. Without this historical advantage, this novel by Thomas Mallon, titled Watergate, many readers will struggle, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of characters involved in Mallon's nearly 500-page book. To make matters even more difficult, Mallon takes little to no time in his character development, who lack so much as a brief introduction. Evidently, Mallon expected readers in 2012 to have a well-rounded knowledge of the main characters, as well as the lesser knows in the Watergate fiasco. My gut feeling is he is in for a disappointment. I may be wrong. Generally, Mallon's novel covers the Watergate story from the break-in at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex to Nixon's resignation in 1974. An Epilogue is added and covers the post-Watergate period of 1978 to 2004.

In 1972 I was a twenty-something young adult who had just voted in my first election. The voting age was 21 back then and I had just returned from a year tour in Vietnam in early 1972, not long before the curtain goes up on Mallon's political drama. This book makes no claims of being a PBS-like documentary on Watergate, but is clearly being marketed as a fictional Watergate novel which has been sprinkled with a hefty dose of actual participants, places and things to give it the feel of an authentic docudrama. If the reader expects to finish Watergate (The Novel), he or she will need to be patient, just like those of us who endured the real adventure of Watergate, a period when it seemed the political stage had slowed to a snails pace. In my opinion, the overly exuberant writer of the promo on the back cover of this book never actually read Mallon's book. The book was good, but certainly not the pinnacle of Watergate literature it is portrayed to be.

In most novels, the story centers on a handful of characters, while the sub-characters move in, out and around the central plot. Mallon's novel seemed more like a lateral string of events, bouncing from one character-group to another, and then back again. This, I think, added to the one-dimensional feel of many of the characters. It's possible that the story was just too grand in scale for a single novel. As a result, I was disappointed in the character development of so many of the faceless actors. Mallon's attempt to interject humor into the story was to some degree successful. I must admit I did grin at some of the silliness of Watergate. At other times, even though I was familiar with the details of Watergate and how the story ends, I still had to wade through sections of this slow-moving story. Though I suppose that since it has been nearly four decades since the break in, remembering as much as I did does say something positive for Mallon's book.

Why Mallon included an Epilogue is unclear. I suppose he felt the need to bring the reader up to date with what happened to the central characters after Watergate (1978-2004), but it ends so abruptly I turned the page to see if that was truly the end of the book. To my surprise, it was. To be honest, knowing the previous 400+ pages were factitious, the post-Watergate moments he chose to chronicle were so disjointed the Epilogue just didn't add any value to the book for me. One last thought concerning the circular image on the book cover, does anyone have a clue what it is and why it represents Watergate? Though I suspect I know what it is supposed to be, the fact that I have to ask this question should give a prospective reader some idea of what they will encounter in the book.

Overall, I did enjoy reliving such a significant period of the latter twentieth century political history, even though it was another black eye on the already dubious presidency of Richard Nixon. As indicated earlier, this novel was clearly a mixed bag for me. I guess since I was an adult during Watergate, I expected a more robustly developed story. So I do feel sorry for the reader who is only vaguely familiar with the complex players and political deception that made up the Watergate saga. In most cases, this novel lacked the mystery and suspense one would have expected. Specifically, why some characters did what they did during Watergate was completely left to the imagination of the reader. And it shouldn't have been.

I think I may know why this book fell short; Mallon failed to put himself in the shoes of his potential readers, especially those who are unfamiliar with Watergate. One frustrated reviewer even resorted to using Google to help make up for the lack of character information--even that proved futile. I'm not sure if even a scorecard would have helped to keep track of all the people, places and events in this book. Although I do think a section at the beginning of the book introducing the characters and key locations and providing a brief synopsis of each would certainly have helped.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece. April 29 2012
By P. Rose, Key West - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
To describe "War and Peace" as a book about Napoleon's campaign in Russia is as inadequate as to say that Thomas Mallon's "Watergate" is a book about the Watergate scandal. For those who don't know, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 and came close to destroying Moscow and extending the French empire all the way to Asia, until the frigid cold, among other things, drove his armies back, crushed. "Watergate" is the name we've given to the scandal that brought down the Nixon presidency in 1974 which resulted from a two-bit, pointless burglary by Republican dirty-tricks operatives at the Democratic National Committee's offices and the resultant efforts, involving the White House, to cover it up. But "War and Peace" is more involvingly about Natasha, Prince Andre, and Pierre, while "Watergate" is about only slightly less fictional characters with the names of Pat and Richard Nixon, Fred LaRue, Rosemary Woods, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. How Mallon makes these characters live on the page as much as anything he has to say about Watergate makes the book a masterpiece. Although you learn a lot about Watergate in the course of the novel, its main concern is human complexity and the theme of unintended consequences and will. The female characters are a triumph - Pat Nixon, Nixon's secretary Rosemary Woods, TR's daughter, and the wise-cracking, terrifyingly destructive Martha Mitchell. These women are given some lovable men: Tom Garahan, an imagined lover for Mrs. Nixon, and Fred LaRue, the Watergate bagman, improbably turned into a touching character with great depth. The most important character is Nixon himself, whose combination of weakness and strength Mallon makes worthy of a Shakespearean tragic hero. Don't read the book if you want to "know more" about Watergate. Read it because you want to feel more about life and the pity of how we rise and fall, love and die. This is my nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2012.
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