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Publisher's Summary

One of USA Today's Best Books of the Year

A riveting account of the crucial days, hours, and moments when the Watergate conspiracy consumed, and ultimately toppled, a president - from the best-selling author of One Minute to Midnight.

In January 1973, Richard Nixon had just been inaugurated after winning re-election in a historic landslide. He enjoyed an almost 70 percent approval rating. But by April 1973, his presidency had fallen apart as the Watergate scandal metastasized into what White House counsel John Dean called “a full-blown cancer.” King Richard is the intimate, utterly absorbing narrative of the tension-packed hundred days when the Watergate conspiracy unraveled as the burglars and their handlers turned on one another, exposing the crimes of a vengeful president.

Drawing on thousands of hours of newly-released taped recordings, Michael Dobbs takes us into the heart of the conspiracy, recreating these traumatic events in cinematic detail. He captures the growing paranoia of the principal players and their desperate attempts to deflect blame as the noose tightens around them. We eavesdrop on Nixon plotting with his aides, raging at his enemies, while also finding time for affectionate moments with his family. The result is an unprecedentedly vivid, close-up portrait of a president facing his greatest crisis.

Central to the spellbinding drama is the tortured personality of Nixon himself, a man whose strengths, particularly his determination to win at all costs, become his fatal flaws. Rising from poverty to become the most powerful man in the world, he commits terrible errors of judgment that lead to his public disgrace. He makes himself - and then destroys himself.

Structured like a classical tragedy with a uniquely American twist, King Richard is an epic, deeply human story of ambition, power, and betrayal.

©2020 Michael Dobbs (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

One of USA Today's Best Books of the Year

A New York Times Critics' Top Book of the Year

"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.... Crucial. Four stars out of four." (David Holahan, USA Today)

"Dobbs...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.” (Joe Klein, Washington Post

"Vivid...King Richard [has] 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.... Dobbs achieves something of a cinematic effect.... Whether you lived through the Watergate years, or have studied them since, Dobbs' book hearkens back to an era when even a president elected in a landslide could be held to account by the system itself." (Ron Elving, NPR) 

What listeners say about King Richard

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As good as it will ever get

King Richard is both an excellent title and very good book about Nixon. Politically I’m not far left, I’m not far right, so more than anything when I do political books I just want to do a good one. This book checks all the boxes you would look for in a great political piece of non fiction. It’s not a classic biography, hence its focus on Watergate, but you get to learn about him from a different perspective. I know what he did was wrong, but I see him as tragically flawed and not an evil soulless person. RiP

10 people found this helpful

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Lays out details to make superb sense

I have read at least a half-dozen books on this. Nixon is a sort of hobby to me. Only now, with this one, did I feel a sense, in the round, of what moved the various participants from within: what the situation looked and felt like to them. So, the flow of events suddenly makes more sense. It was good to focus on what propelled people. This telling is vivid, flows well, is sad, and is poignant, weird, and hilarious, at turns. I can go from being moved by a player's plight (even Nixon's), in an instant to imagining the scenes as a tinny, cheap sitcom with a laugh track after every pratfall. The pinnacles of power and ego stumble over their own absurdities. Several times I busted out with a sharp laugh, which I did not expect. The tone goes from subdued to garish and back, as the moments depicted did. I found the narrator listenable and competent but a bit too often wistful-sounding. His voice characterizations are in general inoffensive, with only the Henry Kissinger voice a bit overdone: this is apparently irresistible for various narrators.

7 people found this helpful

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Best account of the fall of Nixon

In my opinion, the best account of the chronological, gradually accelerating downfall of Richard Nixon.
Many people are not aware that Richard Nixon did not know of the Watergate break in until he was informed later.
If he had treated the information as a crime to begin with, and decided immediately that whoever was involved must be held accountable, he would have come out of this thing a hero. I believe he would have been judged as one of our most respected presidents, if for no other reason than his success in foreign policy. Since you know the outcome, it will almost break your heart to see what is happening before your eyes. You almost want to yell: "Don't say that, or that, or that! Just don't do it!"
And of course, the tapes! When Nixon was reminded of the voice-activated taping machine in every room in the White House where meetings or discussions were likely to happen, he gathered his most trusted advisers to his inner sanctum. Nixon made the decision the next day that the tapes would probably become more of a benefit than a liability. Of course, this was based on his assumption at the time that he would be able to selectively dole out what he wanted the court to hear. Imagine his shock when the court decided otherwise.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

Highly recommend. Listening to excerpts from the actual tapes really brought this to life. I’ve seen and read dozens of Nixon bios but this one was truly fascinating. Learned a lot of new things and for so much insight into a complicated man.

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  • 07-19-21

Excellent

I was born after Nixon's resignation and knew only the basics of the Watergate scandal before listening to this audiobook. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the listening experience. I liked the excerpts with Nixon speaking, but I especially enjoyed the outstanding performance by the narrator. I appreciated all the background and detail that other listeners who lived it may have found tiresome. This is a truly outstanding audiobook. Kudos to the author and narrator!

3 people found this helpful

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an ideal audiobook experience

ive always been into kennedy, the 60s, vietnam, the 68 election, etc--but never nixon. never watergate. just wasnt interested. this book reads like a novel constructed of journal entries. its a thriller and a tragedy. and you know what strikes me most, is that nixon was a bad guy--but he was wasnt bad enough to do what he wouldve had to do--and couldve done--to get away with it. compared to the bad guys today, nixon is a boy scout. he couldve stopped the investigation. he couldve burned the tapes. he couldve fired dean, erlichmann and haldeman much sooner. he couldve done a lot of things but he didnt because, in the end, he wasnt that bad. for his time, sure, he was a bad guy. but for our time, in a world of donald trump, devin nunes, roger stone, paul manafort, vladimir putin, mitch mcconnell, roger ailes, tucker carlson... as i said, compared to those guys, nixon was a boy scout. the beautiful thing about this book is that it uses the actual nixon tapes, so you can hear him talking to kissinger, to his aides, to everyone... and what you hear is a guy worrying about how his people will make ends meet once he fires them. you hear a guy who feels tremendous guilt. a guy who puts on a brave and loving face for his daughter. a guy who, when facing the choice to go further and block or render impossible the investigation into his misdeeds, decides not to. this is a guy who loved america, who believed in what he was doing for our country, a guy who was deeply loyal to his own people and yes a guy who made some mistakes. honestly, g gordon liddy, howard hunt and john dean screwed him. hard. and like so many great men before him, caught in a web of his own making, nixon is tragically late in realizing how serious the trouble really is. not only did i learn a lot about watergate, i grew fond of richard nixon--much less so, the cast of sycophants around him. but nixon? absolutely. he is a sympathetic guy. a father, a brilliant foreign policy guy, and yes, a patriot. im glad he had a full state burial with all five living presidents attending his funeral in 94. he deserved it. unlike the criminals running our country today, he actually loved and cared about this country. these republicans today only care about getting on fox news and getting rich. thats it. and to do that, they get more and more extreme and less connected to reality. with these schmucks in charge we're really screwed. if only we could go back to a time when this countrys worst problem was a third-rate burglary into the dnc hq and a bungled coverup. look around today and youll, like me, be longing for the good old days of honest men like richard nixon and the good old days of watergate.

2 people found this helpful

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I don't need to hear Nixon's voice.

...although it's preservation here serves a greater purpose. the inclusion of the clips makes the text tiresome and repetitive. for those who want or need to hear Nixon indict himself, this is the version of the book to buy.

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Excellant Account

Based on the tape transcripts, this book is by far the best on Watergate, Organizing the text around the daily recorded transcripts, the account has a dramatic structure that is compelling. Although the author helpfully provides sections that give context, the main focus is on the actual words of Nixon and those others involved in the coverup. Also provided are snippets of the actual conversations. While sometimes these break the flow of the narrative, they nonetheless gives the reader a sense of the people, their tone, their emotions and their character. Unfortunately the book ends in the summer of 1973 when the taping system was removed. It would have been great to ahem this continue to the resignation of Nixon.

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First rate, I learned a lot and was entertained

Great narrative of the first hundred-ish days of Nixon's 2nd term. It's a tragedy from the highs of a landslide re-election victory to his downfall from the bungled cover-up. The author is skilled at assembling the story and the characters in such a way that it feels like a movie or TV show, very dramatic. The end of chapter excerpts from the tapes are amazing, this is a must-listen vs. read IMHO.

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Fascinating But Mildly Repetitive

Having lived through the Watergate era, I was delighted to have learned so much I did not already know. Like many Americans, I was glued to the television during the original congressional hearings. Mr. Bramhall has accurately captured the mood of the country and created a realistic view of the Nixon White House.

I do think he could have chosen a better editor. There was a fair amount of unnecessary repetition. I did not much care about Nixon’s cottage cheese and pineapple meal the first time it was mentioned. Hearing about it again was dumb. There were other minor repetitions that a good editor could catch.

Narrator was great. Interspersing clips from the actual tapes was a great addition to the audiobook.

1 person found this helpful