JACKSON PLACE is an alternate history of what might have happened, in America and in Vietnam, had President Nixon not actually resigned on August 8, 1974.
The date is August 8, 1974, and President Richard M. Nixon is scheduled to give a historic speech to the nation. In this history, however, he does not, as expected, resign the office of the Presidency. He states instead that the need to defend himself against Watergate allegations has left him “temporarily incapacitated” for the duties of the President, and appoints Gerald Ford as his acting President for the duration, moving across the street to Jackson Place. Much political upheaval and scheming follows, and no one is quite sure who is running the country. North Vietnam, too, decides to take advantage of the distraction, and invades South Vietnam. Can Nixon persuade Ford to use enough force to counter the invasion? Will the military and Congress cooperate long enough to do so? Will Governor Reagan’s people manage to dig up the dirt they need to bring Nixon down and leave the political stage open for Reagan? And what, precisely, was on that 18 1/2 minutes of tape that Rose Mary Woods erased?
JACKSON PLACE is a novel for those fascinated by modern history, politics, and behind-the-scenes manipulation and scheming. The story is well-researched and reasonably plausible, with known historical figures portrayed in a matter believably true to their real personalities. Fictional characters are given real human motivations and backgrounds, and fit seamlessly into the real historical tapestry. Nixon himself is portrayed vividly as a mass of contradictions – sometimes touchy and insecure, sometimes touchingly warmhearted, a ruthless and clever strategist who was nonetheless regularly tripped up by his own blind spots. At one and the same time it is clear why he was hated by so many, and why those closest to him were often fiercely loyal to him. The book does not hesitate to put forth difficult moral questions, and to point out that politics and war both often result in problematic moral choices with no clear right answer.
JACKSON PLACE can be a bit dry at times, focusing more on political maneuvering than on action, though the maneuvering is, to the author’s credit, given its due in terms of actual effect on real people’s lives. It also comes from a specific political perspective, which may offend, or challenge, those on both the right and the left. No one comes out unscathed, or innocent.
JACKSON PLACE is a fascinating and thoughtful look back at a key point in American history, exploring with care and intelligent speculation the potential changes that might have resulted from one small tweak to the actual events.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader.