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Publisher's Summary

From one of our most esteemed historical novelists comes a remarkable retelling of the Watergate scandal, as seen through a kaleidoscope of its colorful perpetrators and investigators.

For all the monumental documentation that Watergate generated - uncountable volumes of committee records, court transcripts, and memoirs - it falls at last to a novelist to perform the work of inference (and invention) that allows us to solve some of the scandal’s greatest mysteries - who did erase those eighteen-and-a-half minutes of tape? - and to see this gaudy American catastrophe in its human entirety. In Watergate, Thomas Mallon conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency through the urgent perspectives of seven characters we only thought we knew before now. Praised by Christopher Hitchens for his “splendid evocation of Washington,” Mallon achieves with Watergate a scope and historical intimacy which surpasses even that attained in his previous novels and turns a “third-rate burglary” into tumultuous, first-rate entertainment.

Thomas Mallon is the author of the novels Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, and Fellow Travelers, among others. He has been literary editor of Gentleman’s Quarterly and is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the Atlantic, as well as other publications.

©2012 Thomas Mallon (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Mallon, astute and nimble, continues his scintillating, morally inquisitive journey through crises great and absurd in American politics by taking on Watergate… Mallon himself is deliciously witty. But it is his political fluency and unstinting empathy that transform the Watergate debacle into a universal tragicomedy of ludicrous errors and malignant crimes, epic hubris and sorrow.” ( Booklist)
“If ever a historical event was worthy of a comic novel, it’s Watergate, and Mallon, with several outstanding historical novels to his credit, has the skills to write it. What a cast of characters we meet!… Mallon writes with such swagger that it all seems new again. A sure winner, for its subject and Mallon’s proven track record as a historical novelist, and because it’s good.” ( Library Journal)
“Revisiting the history of the ’70s with our favorite cast of characters… While billed as a novel, this book reads more like a documentary of a fascinating yet unlamented time.” ( Kirkus Reviews)

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A great listen

An intriguing tour-de-force. Mallon retraces the path of the Watergate conspiracy, but at a somewhat oblique angle. Most of the characters are based on (or at least named after!) real people, many of them major players in the burglary or the coverup. The novel is written from multiple points of view; the most extensive POV characters are all safely dead and beyond the reach of their lawyers, but I'm not sure they would care - Mallon applies an even-handed and deeply compassionate brush to everyone. Even Nixon comes off as a human being, and Pat Nixon is given an especially sympathetic treatment.

The obliqueness of the narrative becomes more obvious as it progresses. Time and again, we see the lead-up to important milestones in the coverup, or the aftermath, but we don't see the actual events themselves. The only direct contact we have with the Senate Watergate hearings is when Alice Roosevelt Longworth - Teddy's daughter and one of the major POV characters - attends a morning of John Dean's testimony. At another point, late in the unfolding crisis, we see Nixon listening to the tape of the infamous June 23rd meeting with Haldeman, but it's a retrospective moment: the "real-time" narrative of that date, earlier in the book, skips the meeting entirely.

The effectiveness of this depends on what you were hoping to find. As an old hand at Watergate lore, I was hoping for a more dramatic rendition of the key events. I was initially disappointed, but Mallon gradually won me over with his attention to detail and his provocative and totally believable characterizations. The main POV characters - Longworth, Howard Hunt, Fred LaRue, Rose Mary Woods, Pat Nixon, and Nixon himself - would be fascinating even they weren't, however tangentially, caught up in one of the biggest scandals ever to engulf the US government. Hunt's life in particular has the makings of a real tragedy.

Joe Barrett's gravelly narration is perfectly adapted to the quiet introspection of much of the novel. And yes, his impression of Nixon is spot on.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Arlo Guthrie's Presidential Rag updated

Where does Watergate rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best. Highlighted all the many things I had forgotten. I was married on the day of the Watergate break in, so I have always been interested in Watergate. This book is a novel told from the inside not like All The President's Men which was told by outsiders.
Wonderful narration, great voices without caricature.
Great characters, humanizes the people involved without forgiving them their sins.

What did you like best about this story?

The great characterizations. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Mrs. Dorothy Hunt, and Fred LaRue are probably my favorites. A great refresher course on the craziness of Watergate.

Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

Fred LaRue was a tragic figure. He lived with the knowledge that he had accidently killed his father and was a true Southern gentleman. He was loyal and did his best to help

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but it was way too long to listen to in one sitting. I did listen to the last 4 hours in one sitting though.

Any additional comments?

Presidential Rag by Arlo Guthrie
You said you didn't know,
that the cats with the bugs were there,
and you never go along with that kind of stuff no where,
but that just isn't the point man,
that's the wrong wrong way to go,
if you didn't know about that one, well then what else don't you know,
You said that you were lied to,
well that aint hard too see,
but you must have been fooled again by your friends across the sea,
and maybe you were fooled again by your people here at home,
because nobody could talk like you,
and know what's going on,
Nobody elected your family,
and we didn't elect your friends,
no one voted for your advisors,
and nobody wants amends,
You're the one we voted for, so you must take the blame,
For handing out authority to men who were insane,
You say its all fixed up now, you've got new guys on the line,
but you had better remember this while you still got the time,
Mothers still are weeping for their boys that went to war,
father still are asking what the whole damn thing was for,
and People still are hungry and people still are poor,
And an honest week of work these days don't feed the kids no more,
Schools are still like prisons,
cuz we don't learn how to live,
and everybody wants to take, nobody wants to give,
Yes you will be remembered, be remembered very well,
and if I live a long life, all the stories I could tell,
A many who are in in poverty of sickness and of grief,
hell yes,
you will be remembered, be remembered very well,
You said you didn't know,
that the that the cats with the bugs were there,
You'd never go along with that kind of stuff no where
But that just isn't the point man,
That's the wrong ,wrong way to go,
You didn't know about that one,
well then what else don't you know.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 02-26-12

very funny and not at all pedantic

Unlike most comedic novels, this one doesn't wear thin in parts OR go "over the top" to get laughs --it's a consistently good narrative and consistently funny.

It's not pretending to be history, but the author transmits the history of the events effortlessly - I would listen to any historical fiction he writes, no matter the topic. Some will dislike or dispute the portrait of historical characters, but they are all so human, I just want to read their biographies after his playful introduction to their roles in the tragicomedy - and I had absolutely no interest in Watergate before this listen.

The Alice Longworth Roosevelt character is remarkable - She could stare down The Right Honourable Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham! Whatever truth to her portrait in this novel, she will be my first biographical follow-up project.

The narrator is excellent, toeing the line between impersonation and lively narration without going overboard.

I downloaded this for the social history of the period but am now interested in Watergate itself. Laugh while you learn!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 11-26-16

Fleshes out the story brilliantly

I've never been one for historical novels. I'm suspicious of fiction in general (allowing as how, granted, much non-fiction is quite fictive). Why make up a story, especially cribbing others' names and situations halfway truthfully, instead of going with the record? It seems a counter-productive enterprise. For example, I think Oliver Stone often simply muddied people's thoughts of events and people, with his pyrotechnics and conspiracy insertions. How could a made-up story be useful, or efficiently useful? After all, nothing in such a genre reliably happened. Every event is suspect. (I guess my lawyer side is showing.)

But here, at least with this novel, my eyes have been opened. This novel and performance have lent much color to a pretty well-known record, as if punching it up an extra dimension. (I suggest the listener first know the story, and not use this as a first entry point). Imagine a very well-schooled author can reanimate the characters we see in those (mostly) black and white press photos, thrust a hand into them like sock puppets, and bring them to life, in all dimensions of their characters and plights, not merely the ones a camera or interview captured. The nonfiction author has hands tied in this. (Allowing, of course, that each historian takes different latitudes of license to inject non-documented bits to fill the spaces in the record -- as Tom Holland does so colorfully with Roman history.) Further, the fiction author can take us into the minds of each participant, without the awkwardness of labeling everything as a guess. I can see the requisite discipline involved, and here, well done, this gives credibility to the thoughts imputed to real people in real time. My hat is off to this author who has great intuition and psychological insight. Except for a few clearly invented bits (Pat Nixon's affair), the thoughts here ring true to the record I know, systematically. It is a kind of fiction I can respect, as it adds value, if nothing else enhancing our speculative imaginings about the true story.

I appreciate the clarity of labeling as a novel -- our public life seems full of unscrupulous authors who are blurring fabrication and fact, sourcing and all these traditions, horrendously. New media isn't helping, so far, but maybe the AI gods will give us a fact-checking assist in that.

In this narrative performance by Joe Barrett (a favorite of mine), he has outdone himself. I hope he was as delighted doing this as I am listening to it. It joins the author's work seamlessly to bring all these moments vividly to life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent reimagining of Watergate

Mallon does a good job of getting into the heads of the various players in and around the Watergate scandal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This novel about “Watergate” will offend and entertain. It will offend those who believe Nixon was a great political leader. It will entertain those who believe Nixon was simply a man with strengths and weaknesses, overblown by great power. Mallon cleverly weaves a story of the Watergate break-in that magnifies its stupidity by revealing known facts and improbable speculations.

Aside from a fictional side story of an extramarital affair for Mrs. Nixon, Mallon gives his audience an entertaining story. He successfully reveals how momentous the Watergate’ cover-up became.

Nixon did not lose the Presidency from the petty Watergate’ burglary; he lost it from the cover-up. Just as LaRue is not found guilty of murdering his father, Nixon is not convicted for a petty crime. However, both are punished for the remainder of their lives. As Forest Gump said, “stupid is as stupid does”.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Watergate Memory Lane

If you could sum up Watergate in three words, what would they be?

A brilliant reimagining of the Watergate Break in and all the President's men, from Nixon himself to Pat Nixon to the burglars

Who was your favorite character and why?

Richard Nixon. Joe Barrett has his voice and makes him come alive. But Mallon also makes Nixon real by the dialogue and internal monologues between and among all of the conspirators in the coverup interacting with Nixon---Mallon puts you in the room as Nixon quizzes Dean or speaks with Rose Mary Woods. You feel you are in the room and Barrett has the voices for the characters that make this seem so real,

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

One of his best and a reason for audible books. I love reading and am always in a book but I can't make the dialogue come alive like a good reader. He makes books remind you of the Homeric tradition of reading out loud. Reading and listening at the same time or alternatively is a treat

Who was the most memorable character of Watergate and why?

Outside of Nixon himself, Alice Roosevelt Longworth----Mallon uses her for historical perspective and a long view of Washington inside politics.

Any additional comments?

No Spoiler alert but Mallon's effort to solve the reason for the Watergate breakinitself (still a mystery) is terrific

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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My favorite car read in a long time.

Just wonderful. Very historically accurate as far as I can tell (except of course for, well, you'll know what is questionable) and really brings the period and issues to life. absolute page turner so to speak. great narration too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Sevener
  • Springfield, IL United States
  • 03-26-13

Read this book!!!

What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

He is awesome. He uses a pitch perfect inflection to convey shades or irony, bemusement, and sarcasm, not to mention a full range of other emotions.

Any additional comments?

This is a wonderful book, particuarly if you lived through Watergate, and even if you didn't. Mallon tackles the whole affairs from the viewpoint of richly drawn characters who come right out of the pages of newspapers -- E. Howard Hunt, Mrs. Nixon, Alice Longworth Roosevelt, Magruder, Dean, Woods, and of course Nixon himself. Though the story is imagined, at least from the inner thoughts of the characters, Mallon's imagination is as sharp and plausible as a scapel. You come to think: Oh, so that's why Mitchell did that, or: Well, now we know what Rosemary Woods was doing. And Mallon's scapel slices deep -- poor Tricia, poor Elliott Richardson.

If you lived through Watergate, it's fun to be the fly on the imaginative wall of Thomas Mallon. If not, here's a better window into Washington than any civics textbook.

Read this book! Please.

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What made the experience of listening to Watergate the most enjoyable?

I had forgotten the chronology of the Watergate scandal and how all the people involved were connected. Though much of the dialogue is "best guess" stuff, it did explain a lot to me about the possible motivations for all of the participants, including Nixon and rosemary Woods. There were a few surprises!