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Welcome to the foxhole on -- -- James Rosen joining us but today is a very special guest -- used to be a time ladies and gentlemen where.
Novelists and critics were towering figures in this country and they put them on the covers of magazines.
We still have towering not listening critics it's the magazines were slowly but surely losing.
And one such figure is my friend Thomas Mallon.
Thanks for visiting the fox holds for everything and that Tom is the author of a book that was just recently issued in paperback the critically acclaimed.
Why did you -- this.
I think -- goes back to 1960.
Richard Nixon -- was this political figure that most.
Engaged night sessions and imaginations.
And I was in fourth grade in 1960 and was it.
Passionate Nixon -- going to school every day with -- excellent experience counts.
-- what do you think since -- -- plunged deeply into the realm of auto cycle analysis here.
Why did you identify with Nixon -- Kennedy like so many other people did.
Well you know I look at my father in that respect my Irish Catholic father and when he looked at John Kennedy.
-- -- a guy who has gone Harvard he's guys bothered to Hartford where is that when they looked at Nixon my father his friends.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Working harder than anybody else to get it like it's a little bit of that in this well I was you know -- be the first generation.
And I think the college do those things and he.
I think I was aware of his own.
Awkwardness and nervousness whatever and I sort of found a way that.
What I mean I've had that disease memory the first time -- he's lost -- California governorship.
-- -- on Jack Morris Friday -- to play the piano to play the piano and I remember he you don't see this on the YouTube clip but I would.
-- because it cuts off earlier.
Once he left the -- -- -- jet part looked at the audience and he went like this little little boy like it was a pity applause that he was coming.
And for the former vice president of the United States at that point and I.
I mean I think that the thing that it -- way.
Tragedies as Nixon's reputation is that the fall.
That would be coming would be so spectacular that it has eclipsed the comeback story which.
Was in its way almost as extraordinary.
-- -- As you regular fox -- viewers know right beneath me on your screen you can use your Twitter or FaceBook -- to log in and send us your questions and your chat for myself but of course.
More importantly for our guest Thomas Mallon author of Watergate and novel I want to read a passage.
From this novel which by way of full disclosure we should point out I helped you with some minor research materials.
And wasn't early reader of the manuscript yes and and you can indispensable -- thank you and and you very graciously thanked me in the technology section so here's a passage from page 310.
Of the hardcover edition of Watergate and novel.
And it's set in November 1973.
At a point when the impeachment drive was just gaining steam against President Nixon.
And in this historical fiction we should point out.
Nixon the First Lady Patricia Nixon.
Is confronting her husband about Watergate.
And I should point out this is complete fiction correct this part of -- look at.
She whirled around and showed him an expression he'd never seen a strange but discernible -- -- deep sympathy and high octane rage.
You don't understand she said even now not raising her voice I know they are to blame.
She didn't have to tell him who they were the Kennedys and everyone else who made him into the march being since the days of -- forties and Helen Douglass and who'd flown five times the mud and brimstone he had.
I would have made an enemy's list twice as long as yours and -- -- and I would've done something to get the people on it.
Anything to be rid of them forever.
The -- I thought -- -- -- from our lives after sixty and then 62 and then surely at this time last year I hate your enemies that you love them.
You -- their existence there -- gives you your own.
That's why I'm sick with a Gingrich you for bringing us to the top of this awful -- We're never gonna get back down without being devoured.
The slightest -- a Verizon is usually enough to drive him from -- room but he just stood there for one long moment.
As if looking into an atomic blast finally he turned to leave I wanna go homes have passed.
He turned back to face are aware that his own -- -- glistening with tears the same -- her -- where's home he asked.
I've done -- a very moving passage.
What is you're just take on the the relationship between.
Richard and Pat Nixon I think yours is very different from the kind of caricatures we've had since the days of senator.
I think they were very devoted to each other extremely loyal they're both reserve it was shy people.
And I think Ed Nixon when he met her in the 1930s while they were doing some amateur theatrical -- I think -- was meant for her the -- you met her little story always goes that he drove her on her dates with other guys who didn't have cars.
He stuck with -- his tenacity.
Which in some ways -- -- as chief characteristic appealed to her a lot.
And I I wrote that scene in part I think is -- one.
Small bit of the book that I wrote.
In some ways in reaction to something else there's a scene in the dreadful.
I think Oliver Stone movie about Nixon we hear if she -- here right yes and and they get into this argument.
And her argument.
It is is eventually she becomes sort of a liberal spokesman.
In the movie where you know she talks about as I remember at the lawyer he's doing this yes I think that yeah.
And I don't think that's how Pat Nixon thought at all I think Pat Nixon in many ways was much more implacable.
And Richard Nixon -- -- -- corner and sort of pushing amendment the -- believe that Watergate was a democratic conspiracy from the beginning she was fond of Reading.
Taylor Caldwell novels which my mother used to read and they.
It was those conspiracy element.
In those folks.
I don't think she had any doubts about the righteousness for us.
Which -- perhaps that the greatest license that you took as a novelist in treating the subject of Watergate and the Nixon presidency was to invent.
An affair an extramarital affair that in this novel.
Pat Nixon had.
When the Nixon's were in New York in the 1960s.
Why was that important for you to do is not what purpose it -- why did you go there -- -- And it.
This was the period that Nixon referred to as his wilderness years adopting Churchill's phrase that it was probably that.
-- -- that -- adult life she was finally what I think she always wanted to be which was the wife of prosperous Republican lawyer who wasn't involved.
-- it didn't seem to be involved in politics on the surface.
And I she lived in Manhattan went to museums -- Elizabeth -- got along very well with her girls who were in school and I.
Sort of imagine though that that she saw Nixon revving up for yet another run.
And there was what she needed.
In a way to complete her happiness was this -- -- tender very mild kind of and very brief romance that she has with this.
Fictional retired trusts and estates lawyer and it's a romance that she gives up the cost.
Her emotional life is very much with Richard Nixon did you hear from the Nixon family after this book is now and it's okay it's not experiencing away because then.
The review -- of the book and actors are very kind of this book they.
But pointed out almost consistently that the book.
That presents a much more sympathetic.
Version of Nixon then.
Many books to fiction or nonfiction and so it was a book that in some ways could attract.
Nixon partisans but I think the the love affair.
That -- supposed to have had with this fellow put it beyond the pale.
You know when they're in there is no evidence justice to button this down.
That you know.
Not a chance -- that that Pat Nixon never had an affair but I think this -- -- in terms of why one does this I mean I certainly didn't do it sir.
-- reasons whatever I think this is what historical fiction.
Does he tries to get what it considers to be the bigger truth the higher truth the truth truth.
-- a lot of incidental -- And that's the strange thing about this was when -- -- scenes for her and this man they've long since -- the affair.
But -- still in kind of friendly contact.
I felt the way I was having -- talk the way I was having thing.
I fill in some ways I was getting closer and I was elsewhere to the actual -- next.
I know I was I was getting -- a truth via a lie that sounds very water.
-- this in itself this crafting of incidental lies.
In historical fiction.
Which you've done for decades now integrated claim.
Is this something that you have.
By way of compartmentalization.
Manage somehow to avoid doing your real -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- There's no real way to calibrate these things how much is too much you know is that too much license that was one reviewer who -- the book well enough overall but he was.
Uneasy about this distinction of an affair and he.
We're called an essay that I had written about historical fiction some years before.
Where I criticized some movie makers for imagining that that young -- -- do.
Gang busting prosecutor -- in fact been in cahoots with the mall.
And I said that that what is aside from being preposterous.
It was hurtful personally to I mean do we had children and grandchildren.
-- -- and and -- he brought that up and -- and here he is doing this with mrs.
Nixon but I just that he did to me.
On the scale of any duty to resuscitate its.
In those things are so so different and that.
You know my determination was.
This was what I it was not too far but again there's no -- -- codified.
These things -- -- point sends us his Chapman wants to know and believe or not Thomas did not put anyone up to this question.
What does the -- think about John dean's role -- is there any truth to the allegations that John Dean lied to congress after his immunity deal.
The nice thing analysts -- just send this question James this Jason -- Watergate scholar.
Whereas I am an amateur and hey sample list I guess.
I I honestly don't know the answer that question -- -- I can tell you appears.
Very rarely in the book same -- Woodward and Bernstein are much in the book one of the things I wanted to do was not well.
All that much -- people who had told their own stories you know written their own memoirs and -- But try to get at some of the more minor figures and a number of the women and so I I.
And to put dean and -- really off to decide.
Something you've written -- -- he he did refer to the book he says something about a lot of my friends prefer that it so I don't know if he actually the.
The very fact that we have a book called Watergate a novel is in the sense.
Testament to the fact that Watergate.
Is slipping from sort of contemporary.
Events and in two straight out history and at the time.
It was such a big deal.
-- hunter S Thompson famously wrote that the collective criminal record of Nixon's aides would blow the minds of high school American history students for the next 100 years but here we are.
Simply one generation later in most high school kids can barely named Nixon.
Let alone any of his aides -- -- the particulars of Watergate.
Do you see water gates' role in history changing morphing evolving.
I think it'll depend on -- In equities -- yet -- in other words new Watergate.
I think people often ask me.
You know will there ever be another Watergate.
Of course there will be -- it won't won't take the form of break it you won't have to do something that low tech approach we take the form of -- -- -- whatever.
But there will be another massive political scandal.
And and that will be.
To Nixon in the long run it will be helpful when another president resigns whoever that may be in the fullness of time.
-- so that he does not.
Richard Nixon -- the only president ever resigned and -- I think in the fullness of time.
You know in its nefarious things but I do think that and they had the difficulty for Nixon is that other things received as well.
Accomplishments foreign policy things all the things he did a climate of the Vietnam War yeah so -- And perhaps among serious historians his ratings will rise but I think in terms of the way he's known to the general public he still likely to be known and remembered as the working for us.
We're talking with Thomas Mallon -- novelist and critic and author of Watergate and novel and several other acclaimed works we're gonna be right back after a brief break.
Talk about some of those other books they include the subjects.
Of the Lincoln assassination.
And the Kennedy assassination here in the fossil stay here.
Welcome back to the foxhole -- still your host James Rosen we're still Washington were still taking your chest just below us on your screen.
You can login using your Twitter -- FaceBook account -- send questions for me.
Or more importantly for our guest author novelist critic.
Thomas Mallon -- and we had a chat for all.
Someone who writes Watergate is a big deal it's the first time in history -- president -- the office everything is compared to that I think we've pretty much covered that subject.
My sense about it is.
That there -- so much.
About Watergate that seems so shocking and unprecedented at the time and make fun of the -- use the word unprecedented in your book.
But which now forty years in.
We know to be routine.
Because it Watergate was the first time where it is all being -- the first time you had these backstage.
Memoirs and you know so the idea that John Ehrlichman was called the president of CBS and -- -- go to reassigned -- rather you know.
All the time we get nasty grams from the White House about our coverage and no one -- and all right.
The selling of the president 1968 idea that they are -- a president like Wheaties was shocking stuff and no -- -- and I had it right and I don't know it seems to me that what's the one of the reasons it was so big.
Aside from partisan animus and animus for Richard Nixon was because it seems so unprecedented.
But now he's sort of scandals and and if we get them and every ten.
That's on Politico yeah if you take Nixon at his word.
In one of the interviews he gave -- -- -- -- in the frost interviews or.
He says I thought Watergate was pure politics from the moment I heard about it.
And -- innocence to him.
It was familiar you know he he was not.
Terribly stunned he didn't expect better.
From people and but I do what I.
Clearly and he himself would admit would never expected was that it would spiral into so many different.
Or that he would ever have to part with this taped -- Nixon is the last public figure who could be forgiven for imagining that it doesn't -- -- yeah perfect.
So let's take a look at some of Thomas -- other previous books Henry and Clara.
Is set in the civil war period.
And tell us who Henry and Clara were.
And my entire war -- engaged couple who had been raised his stepbrother stepsister.
1865 came around and they were the guests at the Lincoln's.
At Ford's theater tonight in -- -- he -- major revamp on.
And she was Clara Harris the daughter of senator -- Harris -- New York.
And they were there when John -- boots came into -- killed president and nearly killed in Iraq slash thing happened with his dagger.
And and they nearly led to -- And they.
Did -- two years later they had three children one of whom was born and Lincoln's birthday and became Republican congressman from Illinois.
-- lived for.
Decades afterwards but their lives were really -- done by the were they debriefed and any significant way.
Yes they did -- they actually even Clara had to go back to the box but returned to the scene of the crime.
And help to reconstruct it and Henry testified before the the -- No this is a hallmark of Thomas and balance work and by the way if you -- -- send Tom Mellon a question or one for me.
Only got to do is go to the bottom of your screen in and log in using your Twitter or FaceBook account hallmark of your work it seems to me -- -- you -- Seizing upon.
Fairly peripheral characters too great big events.
In order somehow to say those great big events right from I guess a novel perspective no -- and no pun intended.
Why have you had a how did you.
Develop that approach when did you first use it -- -- don't want you as a writer.
That that's the approach that's -- sort of be anger you or your hallmark or something that you gonna do again and again.
Well I think it it.
With that book.
Book for me prior to that had -- and I'll look over seven which was set set on one of that it on the day one of the first space flights they.
Project Mercury flight after John -- and in which I imagine this very ordinary family in -- Clearly.
Reacting to this great event and -- seen themselves through it.
From the time the novel get started in England -- the eighteenth century the real the most important component of it.
Is the reader's ability to have a sympathetic identification.
With the hero whether her.
And I think one of the difficulties.
With reading history or certain kind of historical fiction -- You can't identify with certain figures like we got there simply too big.
What they went through is to -- And it almost becomes fatal to see them from the inside out.
People who got swept up into.
I think that those are people that are reader -- novel.
Can identify with can imagine -- could've happened to me if I accidentally -- there you know in that time and place.
And so I think that was.
That was sort of this psychological.
Basis of it.
Since you were a child have you always been longing for time travel that's something that was something you aspire to.
I think we and I would have certainly thought about it and one thing I know is that if -- were -- I would have no desire it would.
It would only go into the past and what would you choose with 11 historical event you could observe as a witness I.
I mean I can mansion I think it's a very easy question to answer there's really only one answer.
And that's for me is Genesis of what else did you wanna see except that in mind blowing show -- get -- -- -- -- you -- I want to Syria.
You know it probably would be right -- Washington in the civil war I think.
I mean I remember.
The Kennedy assassination I remember.
The night that it happened being -- in my room which was festooned with these little.
And depicting events of the civil war as we were in the middle of the civil war Centennial and an 1863.
Yeah -- -- the hundredth anniversary -- Gettysburg and I remember when.
Kennedy was killed the last of those stickers that I had -- my closet door showed John Wilkes Booth you know killing Lincoln and and hear what's happening again.
98 years later.
And they always -- linked him.
And -- have funny you should mention because the other book I wanted to discuss this is another.
Thomas Mallon is great accomplishments however this one is nonfiction and it's called mrs.
Who is mrs.
-- and what did you write this.
-- Pain and the was it still is Quaker woman who at that time was in her early thirties and living in Irving Texas suburban Dallas.
And her life to -- com.
Entirely innocently in mesh with the lives of Lee Harvey Oswald and marina hospital because she.
-- particularly correct well she is she had marina.
That councils were sort of semi separated -- -- Living with her and it's two very small children.
At the time of the assassination Oswalt would visit on the weekends but unbeknownst to her -- was keeping his rifle in her garage she.
-- helped to get him the job at the Texas school book depository.
To her neighbor and Ruth became.
In many ways the most important witness before the Warren commission because she knew more about the movements in the moves at the -- -- in the months before the assassination.
Than anybody else so.
I was very interested in some that you survived an experience like that.
And -- you have.
Becoming an object of conspiracy theory and and then sort of intense interest from all walks of the earth right and some even managed to live.
In in the mixes in this unimaginable -- publicity and to.
Get over -- so I.
Forty years later asked if she would sit down with me and film historian she was very reluctant didn't wanna do it at first but eventually.
Did and it became a long profile -- new Yorker that came -- You keep.
Leading you right into where -- wanna go this you know what that is is because your approach at all at that your approach.
I did want to ask you about the fact that you -- regularly for The New Yorker.
Correct me if I'm wrong if you if you're in a position to do so that you may be the one.
Who regularly does right for The New Yorker at this point do you know many others.
-- And Andy Ferguson used to write for them from time to time -- I don't know if he.
Anymore he writes a weekly standard.
I've never had him uncomfortable political moment at the New York I think says so I asked you yet that it's like -- I think it's light and I think very little about politics directly -- write mostly about political history.
And I mean in the last six months The New Yorker.
I wrote about some Nixon books I wrote about the Coolidge biographies and things like that and then I also read about things that you know our.
Entirely literary in nature and little to do with it.
And I ask is because William F Buckley.
His his first book about sailing.
Which I think was called airborne and began as something -- -- 101000.
In The New Yorker and and it just strikes me is inconceivable that.
That anyone like Bill Buckley would be permitted to appear in that in The New -- these days.
Because things are so polarized.
-- -- -- I'm not honestly sure I mean I'm very peripheral like never been on staff right and maybe a couple of times a year sometimes -- that and some somewhat the same situation at the New York Times.
The -- But I hate I think in the end it's.
You sort of take responsibility for your own words you just try to -- his.
Best you can -- you know if -- tough but -- story please please please me.
My star really as a magazine if you're right there reviewed a lot of books -- national review in the early eighties at which did not make it very popular pastor.
-- watched he's -- the mistakes and he would.
Dollars for review -- put -- -- -- street ware you know nice going good job to do it he still have all those.
-- home and who.
One time I remember he did not do that was when I reviewed at a -- of course but dallas' Jason.
Said that despite what one -- of the -- politics.
So -- -- it was the best.
As used in America and -- -- she was Buckley's arch enemy refuted that litigated whatever.
But they everything -- -- thought Lilly one asked me again who was signed that -- to you.
I think I I think -- asked for the book and there was a fellow in those days since Chilton Williamson was the literary editor and he made he Simon and it's it was one of those things that there was and it never discussed that we got about thirty seconds what -- working on them.
I'm writing about Washington in the late eighties it's my Reagan novel although Reagan.
Send as -- as he uses a preoccupation.
Scarcely peers in the book it's mostly about people.
And -- would be some echoes of Watergate in that period -- in some ways I think if it is a sequel and I can't help but have Nixon and and it says -- in his grand old man senior statesman.
We have time just read a few more chest some informed and G Terrence wrote how is the media compared to that the Watergate era I guess.
A lot more of it.
There's a lot more of it and and yet in their own way I think they feel.
Not as powerful as they did then they had this sense is there.
The growing importance and in this sense that the media was going to decide who occupied the presidency.
And now the fragmentation.
I think -- I -- what it takes in some ways the last great great newspaper story and you know that's not me.
Our guest is Tom -- Author of Watergate and novel Henry and Clara mrs.
-- garage and maybe ten or so I don't know eight other books.
What if you want all of them acclaimed.
And all the worth your time thanks for joining us here in the fossil and James -- -- -- into.
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