Richard Nixon: The Life

John A. Farrell. Doubleday, $35 (752p) ISBN 978-0-385-53735-3
Journalist and biographer Farrell (Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned) skillfully revisits Richard Nixon’s long political career, in this history of American politics from the postwar period through his resignation as president in 1974. Farrell, an exceptional writer, examines minor anecdotes and Nixon’s world-altering choices to illuminate his fundamental and contradictory qualities: a mixture of intelligence, ambition, insecurity, paranoia, and deviousness, all put in service to great success and catastrophic failure. Farrell reveals how these traits drove Nixon in his early days as a young red-baiting California senator, his year as vice president, his failed 1960 Presidential candidacy, his phoenix-like 1968 resurrection, and his final devolution to a paranoid figurehead beset by demons. Nixon’s life is a cornucopia of controversy replete with dramatic moments, including his famous 1952 Checkers speech, and such history-changing events as the 1972 SALT treaty with the U.S.S.R., détente with China, his conspiracy to frustrate President Johnson’s Vietnam peace initiatives, the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that ended the Vietnam War, and, of course, Watergate. It may not have been Farrell’s intent to produce a cautionary tale about the dangers of a presidency run aground on lies, paranoia, prejudices, and delusion, but that’s what he’s accomplished. Farrell makes the most of his material to offer insights and well-considered opinions about each of these historic events. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2017
Release date: 03/28/2017
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