“Watergate” the Novel by Thomas Mallon

“Watergate” by Thomas Mallon (2012) – 429 pages

This novel is all about the Watergate scandal.  Many of us remember vividly this scandal back in 1972 which started as a minor hotel room break-in, but ultimately led to the only resignation of a United States President.  The novel is the story of some of the insiders of the Richard Nixon administration as they deal with the scandal.

Nixon liked to hire guys like himself, rough guys who try to out-A-Hole each other.  These in the administration include Bob Haldeman, John Erlichman, Chuck Colson, John Mitchell, and Gordon Liddy.  So I suppose in that sense Watergate was inevitable.

Let’s face the facts.  Richard Nixon and all the lower level A-Holes and SOBs he put into his administration aren’t all that interesting.  With this tough crew, the dialogue in ‘Wategate’ is without sparkling wit or wisdom and is not the least bit memorable.   I won’t be quoting any lines from “Watergate”.  It could have been comic and humorous to see some of the above crew getting in each other’s way and confronting each other.  I wouldn’t call the novel “Watergate” exactly an apologia, but the people that Mallon makes fun of in the novel are not those in the list of rude guys above, but the milder ones such as Eliot Richardson and Jeb Magruder.

Also depicted in the novel are some of the women who are close to the Nixon administration including Nixon’s secretary Rose Woods, long-time Republican-wellwishing daughter of Teddy Roosevelt Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and Nixon’s wife Pat.  I suppose they were added as characters in the novel to provide some much needed color around all the drab dour men in the administration, but somehow they seem to be outside and unknowing about the main narrative of the scandal.

The novel “Watergate” was a disappointment for me, more of a disappointment because I’ve really liked several Thomas Mallon novels previously including “Arts and Sciences”, “Bandbox”, and especially “Henry and Clara” which is an excellent historical novel about the two people who shared the theatre box with the Lincolns the night Lincoln was shot.  Mallon usually does write historical fiction, but his novels have the literary qualities I appreciate.  Mallon’s conservative politics formerly did not get in my way of appreciating his fiction.

Probably one of the problems with “Watergate” for me is that it occurs in the too recent past which I’m very familiar with and about which I do have strong underlying opinions.  I believe if Mallon had chosen as main characters some of the obnoxious outrageous men listed above besides Nixon, he could have had a more dramatic novel.  Instead the characters who are depicted seem to be bland and curiously watered down including his main character Fred LaRue.

In all of the hullabaloo surrounding Richard Nixon’s resignation, Gerald Ford’s becoming President, and Ford’s pardon of Nixon, the mainstream media downplayed that there actually was a ‘smoking gun’, a tape that proved that Nixon had managed the Watergate cover-up from the beginning if not perhaps the actual burglary itself.  Nixon himself should actually have gone to jail along with his underlings.  Ford’s pardon of Nixon set a bad dangerous precedent allowing future Presidents who committed crimes to not be charged.

Mallon invents a totally imaginary tame love affair for Pat Nixon with a guy from New York.  His novel would have been much more colorful if Mallon instead had depicted Richard Nixon’s twenty-year gay love affair with Bebe Rebozo.

I don’t know if it was my politics or Mallon’s politics that made this such a lame novel for me, probably both.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sam McCloud on March 10, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    I liked “Watergate”. I was born after Watergate and didn’t know that much about it, so the story was new to me.

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  2. Hi Sam,
    It probably helped “Watergate” the novel not knowing the story ahead of time.

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  3. It is interesting to an observer that old stories are being dredged up to maintain the myth that Nixon was a bad person when he did the almost impossible and made the most important strategic Foreign Policy changes that have made the world unrecognisable.
    Nixon’s historic trip to China 40 years ago is being submerged in a raft of stories designed to perpetuate the myth that had been generated about Nixon. The often repeated cop out is that there is a mountain of documents to wade through such that the observer has to reply on the writings of those who stand to benefit only if they kept to the well-worn political line. Are we missing the wood for the trees? Is this a deliberate mis-direction? I have read many such books and it is my opinion that the direct quotations of Nixon are open to very different interpretations. He is a very complex man. Which great leader was not a complex person? Of course the meme that Nixon is a bag egg has been popularised and who would dare to be unconventional and go against the grain and risk being labeled a laughing stock? Especially when one’s career is on the line.
    The latest is that Pat Nixon had an affair while in the White House. Another myth disguised as peotic license in a fictional account. It is getting a great deal of publicity.
    Why do we not think for ourselves and question the inconsistencies and contradictions in the official story? After all we are supposed to have been taught to do so in our schooling.
    Why would Nixon order a raid on Watergate when he was already 26 points ahead of Senator McGovern?
    Why did the Watergate raiders persist in a risky and dumb project so that they would be arrested at the THIRD attempt?
    Why did the dollar bills found on the arrested raiders have consecutive serial numbers? How was this observation made and who popularised it?
    Why were H Hunt’s details that led to the White House found on the address books of TWO of the four arrested Cubans?
    The raiders were supposed to be ex-CIA; why were they so incompetent?
    What has Richard Dawkin’s memes got to do with Watergate?
    If Nixon had wanted to order the Watergate raid, why did he pass the FEC Act that brought about greater transparency in campaign funding? It was not perfect but was a step in the right direction.
    Nixon was against the Zionist lobby influencing US Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Was this another reason for his downfall? Another accusation is that Nixon was anti-Semitic.
    Although anti-bussing, he was responsible for the desegregation of the Southern States, a carry over from President Johnson. He appointed Connolly, a Democrat to be his Secretary of Treasury and Kissinger who was an advisor to Rockefeller.
    He formed the Environmental Agency, thus he was years ahead of his time.
    He alone among the political elite wanted to withdraw from Vietnam not at any price but though ‘Peace with Honour’. He did end the Vietnam War; the principal cause of all the trouble of the US in the 60s and 70s.
    He was right wing, but a patriot, doing everything for the US of A, the country that he loved.
    It is my hypothesis that the Watergate plot was a right wing false flag operation that the liberals would run with, once the trap was sprung. http://uftpress.com. Have we been hoodwinked for so many years? Can someone please explain the contradictions and inconsistencies of the official and conventional account to me? Please don’t be lazy and try to fob me off. Do your own research.

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