- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Feb. 6 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743260694
- ISBN-13: 978-0743260695
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #741,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill President Truman--and the Shoot-out That Stopped It Paperback – Feb 6 2007
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On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, nearly assassinated President Harry Truman. If this historical fact surprises you, you're not alone. American Gunfight, a new account by suspense novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Stephen Hunter and journalist John Bainbridge Jr., examines this largely forgotten episode in meticulous detail, including the conspiracy surrounding it and the misconceptions associated with the would-be assassins. As the book makes clear, it's remarkable that these two men even came close to succeeding, given the disorganized nature of the plot. Intending to attack the president at the White House, they only learned in passing from a cab driver that it was being renovated and that Truman was in fact living at the nearby Blair House. When they made their assault on Blair House, they quickly lost their element of surprise when Collazo's gun misfired, leading to a 38-second shootout in front of the residence that left Torresola and one policeman dead. Meanwhile, Truman witnessed the action from an upstairs window.
At his ensuing trial, Collazo was depicted as a crazed fanatic, but the authors argue that this simplified assessment unnecessarily dismisses a potential political conspiracy involving Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, who was believed by some to have masterminded the plot in an effort to bring attention to his cause. Hunter and Bainbridge provide in-depth portraits of Collazo and Torresola, as well as the Secret Service agent and three White House policemen who saved Truman's life. The descriptions of the remarkably light presidential security of the era reveal much about 1950s Washington, D.C., a time in which the president would take a daily walk around the neighborhood with just a bodyguard or two in tow. As a result of the attack, the Secret Service would forever change the way it guarded the president. This fast-paced book reads like a detective thriller, shifting quickly between various story lines and characters, including a second-by-second breakdown of the gunfight itself. The potboiler narrative may seem over the top at times, with its conjecture and imagined internal dialogue, but this comprehensive account succeeds in bringing this unlikely plot vividly to life. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, engaged in a sustained gun battle with Secret Service agents at Blair House. Their goal was to assassinate President Harry Truman. It's curious that the two men haven't found a place in popular memory like other presidential assailants. But this attempt deserves attention because it was explicitly political and because it permanently altered Secret Service practices. Hunter, esteemed for his film criticism and macho adventure novels, teams up with former Baltimore Sun journalist Bainbridge for this richly detailed account of the motives and destinies of virtually everyone connected to the skirmish. This is an ambitious attempt to achieve time-lapse history. The actual confrontation took less than a minute; rather than save it up for the end, the authors spread it across much of the book, interspersed with background material on the participants. The book reads like the product of a film lover/action novelist and a journalist rather than a work of history, with the shootout described in stream-of-consciousness, and melodramatic, cliff-hanging chapter endings. To the authors' credit, though, interpretations are presented as such, and their handling of the recorded events is not only convincing but compelling.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Stephen Hunter uses his intimate knowledge of guns and gunfighting to analyze what went down that day at Blair House, and the actions of heroic Secret Serviceman Les Coffelt who--- as he was dying--- struggled to his feet and ended the attack with one well-aimed shot.
Engrossing storytelling style that keeps shifting its focus from person to person and place to place, and effortlessly held this reader's attention.
IMO one of Hunter's best.
Every character of any importance at all is addressed here, and addressed so in detail. Whole chapters are devoted to telling you about individual actors, and in doing so, about the time in which they grew up, the things that shaped them, the forces that molded them into what they were in that moment in time. They are all tied up at the end, and we know fully well the path they all travel. Unfortunately, the story-telling device of "jumping" is used, shifting in time back and forth between the assault upon Blair House, and explaining to us who is who, what happened previously, and how it came to be. It would have been better to get all the preliminary matters settled, then walk through the actual gunfight in one smooth, flowing narrative. This is where the modern e-book format (such as Kindle, how I consumed the book), can come in handy by allowing authors and readers to shape how the media is consumed.
Some of the material is reaching, and that's where things go awry. There are claims made that are not supported by evidence, details in timing and accuracy that could not have been established at the time, that are more likely then not flat out inventions of the authors. There is a nostalgia for a passed era, and an attempt to make it appear much friendlier and happier then it was beneath the thin veneer of WASP privilege. But in the end, the story comes down to men with guns. This part of the book is far to short, but in the end there is only so much there. When the fighting has to be done, Hunter is in his element, and he describes it as nobody can. It is hard to imagine that once upon a time, in the not to distant past, American Presidential Security was as ad hoc as it is described here, but it tells us how far we have come, and allows us to ask legitimate questions as to why we are where we are. This is an important book, with all its flaws.