...rich and kaleidoscopic ... Dobbs himself plays up this lugubrious element with the 'American tragedy' in his subtitle and in the arc of the book itself, which is explicitly structured as a classical tragedy, he says, albeit with four acts instead of five. But in his wry and absorbing narrative I sensed an ironic dimension, too ... King Richard distinguishes itself in part by limiting its narrative mostly to the first hundred days after Nixon’s second inauguration, when the victorious president looked poised to coast through another four years before the wagons of the Watergate scandal started to circle closer and closer ... This circumscribed frame allows Dobbs to deploy his observational gifts to full effect ... King Richard makes vivid use of the tapes to convey a White House that seemed to be an unholy combination of the grimly determined and aggressively puerile ... Toward the self-pitying figures in this book, Dobbs is empathetic, but he isn’t sentimental.
... in King Richard, veteran journalist and author Michael Dobbs stirs memories of the intense personal drama connecting that break-in to the downfall of President Richard Nixon ... a vivid retelling of both the crime story and the human stories ... Dobbs uses this vivid source, among others, to re-enact the struggles within the Nixon operation just as it started to unravel. This may give King Richard a better shot than most histories have at reaching younger readers. At the same time, it gives a (much) older generation of Watergate junkies a way to rediscover the dark intrigues of Nixon and his entourage — with notes of relief that we all survived, and perhaps a touch of nostalgia as well ... Within this tight focus, Dobbs presents something he likens to a play ... Dobbs achieves something of a cinematic effect, thanks in part to the brevity of the chapters.
Michael Dobbs makes a splendid case that Nixon was 'an American tragedy,' though I have a quibble. In the classic Greek and Shakespearean definition, there is absolutely nothing the tragic hero can do to avoid his destiny ... It was as if Shakespeare had written a tragedy starring Iago as the central character ... For those new to the story, King Richard is an excellent place to start. Dobbs, a former Washington Post correspondent, has a keen sense of drama. And, by focusing on the 100 days after Nixon’s triumphant second inauguration, he provides a clever lens for viewing most all of the president’s disastrous decisions, with an intimacy — due to Dobbs’s subtle choice of extracts from the tapes — that is stunning ... The story Dobbs tells is, by turns, hilarious, pathetic and infuriating.
This fast-paced opus would be a rollicking fun read, a beach book even, if it weren’t so doggone real—and if it wasn’t so reminiscent of recent machinations in our nation’s capital. But fun or not, this is an important book at this moment in our tortured political history ... Nixon’s second term increasingly would be consumed by the metastasizing scandal. Dobbs masterfully captures the great unraveling in his vivid and illuminating narrative.
It is no slight to King Richard to say that it doesn’t bristle with shocking new revelations or challenge familiar understandings of Nixon and Watergate. It’s what historians call a work of synthesis — a blending of years of others’ journalism and scholarship with one’s own research to create a reliable and authoritative overview for our times. Within those limits, it succeeds admirably. Dobbs has a talent for you-are-there description ... he uses novelistic techniques that make his story vivid and fun ... One slightly puzzling decision is Dobbs’s choice to narrate only the 100 days between Nixon’s second inaugural, in January 1973, and the fateful date of April 30, when Nixon purged four of his senior-most White House conspirators to try to save his presidency ... The only other false note worth flagging in King Richard is the idea, hinted at in the subtitle and the section headings alluding to Greek drama ('hubris,' 'catharsis'), that Nixon’s fate was tragic.
He presents the Watergate scandal as a theater piece, beginning with a dramatis personae and organizing his chapters as acts of a play: Hubris, Crisis, Catastrophe, and Catharsis ... This is a compelling, moment-by-moment narrative, psychological as much as political, offering a sense of intimacy with the beleaguered Nixon without mawkishness ... This is a compelling, moment-by-moment narrative, psychological as much as political, offering a sense of intimacy with the beleaguered Nixon without mawkishness.
[A] balanced but frank account of a critical period in Richard Nixon’s downfall and a valuable addition to the literature of this dramatic era in American political history ... Nixon was a complex figure, and Dobbs offers a relatively sympathetic portrait here ... Whatever [the reader's] conclusion, it will be better informed after reading this engrossing book.
A seasoned journalist tackles one of the most notorious political scandals in American history ... a spellbinding account of the 100 days following Richard Nixon's second inaugural ... Divided into four 'acts,' this masterful book and its title summon the Shakespearean tragedy in which the most powerful man in the world built himself up and then self-destructed ... the author delivers an intimate, engrossing picture of Nixon as a visionary man 'obsessed with privacy and solitude,' an affectionate husband and father, and a gut-fighting outsider mystified by power and all its trappings ... A riveting portrait of ambition, hubris, betrayal, and the downfall of an American president.
The unraveling of Richard Nixon’s presidency plays out in intimate detail in this vivid recreation of a key period in the Watergate scandal ... It’s a gripping story of decline under pressure as Nixon and his aides confront mounting extortion demands from the Watergate burglars ... Dobbs skillfully quotes from the tapes to paint colorful, nuanced portraits of White House yes-men, a manipulative Henry Kissinger, and a Nixon who is vulnerable, melancholy, paranoid, and vengeful ... an indelible study of a political antihero.