Best Depiction of an Era of D.C. History You Didn’t Want to Revisit

Watergate by Thomas Mallon
Everybody who grew up in the years since Richard Nixon’s resignation inherited exactly three things from the events that led to his downfall: All the President’s Men, late-night gold-shilling ads featuring G. Gordon Liddy, and a cynicism about government so deep-seated that a shit-ton of “Hope” posters can temper but not erase it. So Mallon was surpassingly wise not to attempt a novel that assumes anybody cares about the botched break-in itself. What we do care about—and what Mallon shows is enduring about the event—is the skullduggery, misogyny, and bitter one-upmanship that filtered from Nixon through the rest of his toxic administration. In D.C., Mallon writes, “jokes generally required the vivisection of people one disliked or didn’t even know.” Combining dark humor and deep research, Mallon gives Nixon everything he deserves, while reminding us that Tricky Dick was just one in a long line of corrupt pols.