We’ve seen the Watergate story imagined and re-imagined from every possible angle. After nearly four decades it would seem we’ve run out of new ways to tell this ubiquitous tale of America’s seedy underbelly. Thomas Mallon is here to prove us wrong.
Watergate is a bold, sweeping retelling of America’s most famous scandal by a gifted historical novelist, but it’s perhaps more notable for what it’s not. It doesn’t rely on thriller-style twists or far-fetched conspiracy theories to ratchet up the entertainment value. This is character-based historical fiction, a peek behind the walls of power as they’re slowly collapsing. This is a different kind of Watergate novel.
Watergate is populated with the characters who committed and witnessed the crimes: Howard Hunt, Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods, Fred LaRue, Charles Colson, First Lady Pat Nixon and even President Richard Nixon himself. Using the immense quantity of research material as both inspiration and evidence, Mallon constructs a new version of the story. The players are the same, the events do not change, but the level of depth is astounding.
With Watergate, Mallon has constructed a panoramic view of the scandal, with settings throughout the United States and beyond, and dozens of powerful characters. This is no longer a detective story or a parable about American politics. This is an epic, pure and simple, an ambitious novel about the perils of power told with unrelenting skill and prowess. Mallon’s big ideas, big names and big events are balanced out by well-crafted prose, pitch-perfect dialogue and gripping pacing.
But perhaps the greatest achievement of Watergate is that it does not have to simplify the implications of the scandal to create a page-turner. Mallon has crafted a fictional re-examination so rich with detail that the events don’t feel as though they happened more than 30 years ago. Watergate feels new and thrilling again in his hands, and that makes this a can’t-miss book for historical fiction fans.