Three time Pulitzer prize nominated author David Robb has produced a bizarre tale of the detective, the shrink and their intertwined and complex relationship during what was the most dramatic of Presidential Elections – the 1960 John F Kennedy and Nixon race.
Almost noir in style and with more than a touch of the Sam Spades about it, almost all the characters are a selection of the grim and grotesque. Robb rolls out a cabinet of grotesques for our horror and delight. JFK’s ghastly old father Joe is seen at typical best hiring the oddball unbalanced gumshoe to dig the dirt on Nixon’s psychiatric records, whilst Nixon sought to expose the scale of Kennedy’s incurable deadly Addison’s disease. And all the while slimy Frank Sinatra wheedles in the background making clear the ways.
Robb argues that JFK’s discovery of the Nixon files aided his getting the presidency and in a sourly ironic way also ensured Nixon’s own final success eight years later. Readers will already have read my views of the genetic disposition so many Presidents have to mental ill health in “The Madness of the Presidents”.
But I just loved all the prefigurative representations Robb so skilfully works into the story. The standoff between the candidates as a prequel to the Cuba crisis, and the break-ins so reminiscent of Watergate.
Even if you think you know it all and have nothing left to be told, read the book. The detail is astonishing and one is buoyed along with the flow.
It’s wonderful to see the production quality too.
It’s a joy – read it.
Copyright David Macadam 2012