MURDER in the WHITE HOUSE, Margaret Truman

truamanYes, Harry Truman,the 33rd president of the United States was her father.

Like her father, she was born in Independence, Missouri, in 1923, and pursued a career as a singer. She must have been borderline good, but on the wrong side as her father defended her one time against one reviewer writing him, “I have never met you, but if I do you’ll need a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below.”

She couldn’t have been that dedicated to her vocal career for in the 1948 presidential election she campaigned for her father in what is considered the greatest election upset in American history. He left office in 1953, followed by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

white houseMargaret switched careers in the early 1950’s, writing more than 30 books. She married Clifton Daniel, a New York Times foreign news editor and they raised four sons. Her father died in 1972, her mother a decade later. Margaret wrote a biography of her mother and the years in the White House seemed most poignant. Her husband died in 2000, followed soon after by her eldest son, Clifton Truman, killed in a cab collision. She passed away in 2008. Her sons’ names are a story in itself: Clifton Truman (II?)), Harrison Gates, and Thomas Gates. She had five grandchildren.

Her book
Pedestrian. A quick read, much in the calibre of an adult comic book. There is no real depth to Murder in the White House, no character development, no real excitement. A hint of romance which never comes to fruition does little to titillate readers. No nail biting suspense, no drama, no pizzazz. There is a novel twist near the end of the book about the First Family, more mawkish, than a surprise. But then the whole book seems that way, maudlin, somewhat melodramatic lacking real literary jabs, explosive energetic verbalizations, no zip, no sizzle. The novel just plods along, acceptably written, clearly following a sequence Truman has delineated in her head.

Why not develop the character, Ron Fairbanks, much more? Sure he was a whiz kidbeyonce articling or working with the judge. But that area could have been developed more to illustrate Fairbank’s tenacity, intelligence, and drive. We got the barebones. But that may be what this book distilled down to, just barebones. Too bad. It would have been more enjoyable to see each character fleshed out more fully. Was the president’s daughter, Lynne, a vivacious, provocative bon vivant or just a plain Jane young woman? No hint of scandal prone offspring, no hint of sin and sensuality. Like the whole book…pedestrian but readable.

Lee Child or David Baldacci, two males who write in the same genre would have written sparks and explosions. Lan Blaine’s neck slashing would have been pages of blood, gore and squish. The prostitute, Martha Kingsley, would have tried to derail matters with Fairbanks with an attempted seduction, steamy and sauna like which would have made for a page turner. Oh there was so much unrealized potential in this novel. But female writers didn’t write that stuff in the 1970’s. It is only now that they are blasting their way through the male author ceilings with blatant crudities like 50 Shades of Grey.

50 SHADES 2Perhaps these female authors can reach higher levels of success with specialized niche writing such as done by Helen Simonson with Major Pettigrew, no over reaching beyond her grasp but very successful completion of what she was best at doing.

It was a rainy day read…lucky we had a few days of rain this month!

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