From Face the Nation moderator and Slate columnist John Dickerson come the stories behind the stories of the most memorable moments in American presidential campaign history.
The stakes are high. The characters full of striving and ego. Presidential campaigns are a contest for control of power in the most powerful country on earth. The battle of ideas has a clear end, with winners and losers, and along the way there are sharp turning points-primaries, debates, conventions, and scandals that squeeze candidates into emergency action, frantic grasping, and heroic gambles. As Mike Murphy the political strategist put it, "Campaigns are like war without bullets."
Whistlestop tells the human story of nervous gambits hatched in first-floor hotel rooms, failures of will before the microphone, and the cross-country crack-ups of long-planned stratagems. At the bar at the end of a campaign day, these are the stories reporters rehash for themselves and embellish for newcomers.
In addition to the familiar tales, Whistlestop also remembers the forgotten stories about the bruising and reckless campaigns of the 19th century when the combatants believed the consequences included the fate of the republic itself. Some of the most modern-feeling elements of the American presidential campaign were born before the roads were paved and electric lights lit the convention halls - if there were convention halls at all.
Whistlestop is a ride through the American campaign history with one of its most enthusiastic conductors guiding you through the landmarks along the way.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 John Dickerson (P)2016 Hachette Audio
John Dickerson in his usual bemused baritone delivers this entire book in the same way her delivers his amazing podcast. This was just the fix I needed and I may listen to it again. Fans of his whistle stop podcast will delight in extended in depth versions of podcast narratives; as well as new and interesting stories.
Really a great idea for a book, and especially timely. It is essentially a recounting of some of the most interesting electoral battles in our history. Being a history junkie, I was already familiar with several of the elections that were covered, but there were several that I was not aware of as well. Overall it was a solid historical non-fiction read. But there are definitely weaknesses:
1. The biggest drawback was the narration, by the author himself. The book really should have been read by an actor - the narrator's voice is shrill and harsh at times. I struggled to get through significant parts of it - it sounded like it was being read by someone who knew nothing of the subject matter, but was just reading a manuscript. In some cases there was emphasis on the wrong words in sentences, or excitement in the vocalization which was unwarranted. Which is odd because as the author, he must have passion for the material.
2. Several of the chapters are just not that interesting, from an electoral perspective, and the way they are presented is not especially compelling. Those chapters read like a history textbook, rather than a nonfiction book. It seemed that some of them may have been added later to make the book longer, without the same dedication as the most interesting chapters.
That said, there are a few chapters which really shine as great examples of historical non-fiction, telling the stories that make our nation's history incredibly unique and full of life. These chapters are well crafted, colorful, and entertaining. This book could have been about 2/3 as long and I would have given it 4 stars.
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