Monday, 11 November 2019

The Night of Camp David


I read about 'Night of Camp David' by Fletcher Knebel (published in 1964) some time last year and had put it on my Wordery wishlist. This is going to be a quickie because it does exactly what it says on the tin (or cover in this case). Senator Jim MacVeagh has some weird encounters with the President. He spouts weird conspiracies and has outrageous plans to make America great again. Why has nobody else noticed that there is something odd going on? He's not sure who he can tell. Trying to negotiate the tangle of political allegiances is no easy matter, will they believe him or turn on him! What I really enjoyed about this book is the fact that the author was a journalist and plainly had much inside knowledge on the workings of American politics, I really felt like I was inside the world of Washington. Wasn't it all so much more intriguing when there were only telephones and whispers in corridors. It is such a wonderful picture of 1960s America with all its blatant unapologetic misogyny, but you know what, I enjoyed it anyway.

It's his wife's fault he's having an affair:

"Rita. He wanted to see her tonight. Inwardly he reproached Martha for calling him that morning to say she and Chinky could not return until Saturday. Her mother had picked up a cold, and at her mother's age, Martha said, she wouldn't feel right leaving her. Old ladies got pneumonia so easily, she'd said, and he agreed. But, damn it, her mother had no business getting a cold right now. it exposed him, left him vulnerable. By her physical presence, Martha could protect him  - and this gnawing ambition - from temptation. He grew petulant. Didn't Martha realise that he had a chance to be vice-president, and that her duty was to be beside her husband? ... The Congressional directory lay open before him, but his mind went back to Rita and the curve of her wide, bare skin. He could smell the scent of rich perfume on her olive skin, and feel the warmth of her breasts on his chest and the soft nuzzling of her lips on his throat." (p.62-3)

Or maybe it's just Rita's:

"With the first sharp taste of the martini-on-the-rocks, he thought of Rita. Martinis at her place at seven, they had agreed. But God, he couldn't now, not with the vice-presidency within his reach. The risk was too great. He hadn't been able to bring himself to mention the problem to the President. How could he have said it? 'Mr President, before you commit yourself, I must tell you there is another woman in my life.' Christ, it sounded like showboat melodrama. Besides, the affair was over, a thing of the past. Rita knew it and he knew it. He had slipped this morning and she'd called him 'cruel', but it wasn't really that. It was the insistent pull she exerted, like a twitching rope that slackened only occasionally. That was her fault, not his. Besides , it took two to make an affair. Women always managed to arrange these emotional denouements so that the man came out the insensitive villain while the woman, bruised and crushed, appeared to weep for unrequited love. That was the cunning of the sex, and even Rita, with her factual, bookkeeper's mind, was not above playing the woman who nurses her wound." (p.75)

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