The Last Pumpkin Paper

Bob Oeste, Author
Bob Oeste, Author Random House (NY) $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-44837-2
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Oliver Stone has nothing on Oeste when it comes to far-fetched conspiracy plots involving Nixon and Kennedy. In 1989, attempting one last improbable political comeback, an aging Nixon assembles his old intelligence team to reopen the long-forgotten Alger Hiss case. Narrator Joe Pope, 64, a congressional investigator in 1948, comes out of retirement to join his former colleagues to prove that, yes, Hiss was a Communist spy. Pursuit of an explosive document that never surfaced during the trial takes Nixon's motley team of aging dirty-tricksters from his New Jersey offices all the way to collapsing East Berlin. Historical figures such as East Germany's Erich Honecker, JFK and even an aged Hiss himself appear at various points. Oeste alternates an account of the current caper with recollections of the original Hiss affair. It's a bit disorienting, because Pope often glosses over key explanations, but Oeste's humorous rendering of the Machiavellian methods of Nixon and his team are entertaining. The plot--which ties the Hiss case to the mob, Joe Kennedy's courting of Hitler and Jack's assassination--is beyond ridiculous, climaxing in what's more a punchline than a conclusion. But it's a funny one, whose irony--along with the campy tone of the whole book, including a farcical fistfight between a doddering Hiss and a teetering Nixon--renders this debut a good-humored exercise in paranoid plotting and historical fantasy. (Apr.)
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