Review: Night of Camp David, by Fletcher Knebel

The story about this book goes something like this: Published in 1965 and a best-seller at the time, this was not Fletcher Knebel’s best work. That would be Seven Days in May, a successful thriller about a military coup d’etat in the United States, later made into a film. Night of Camp David was deservedly forgotten for several decades.

And then its copyright owners noticed, somehow, that sales of used copies were soaring. There was a demand for the book. Why? Because the basic premise is that the President of the United States is insane. Crazy, right?

So Vintage Books decides to re-brand the book with a new cover, all in black, without the title or author name (Knebel is no longer a household name anyway) and puts this instead: “What would happen if the President of the U.S.A. went stark-raving mad?”

It probably worked. Sales are no doubt going well. I was even tempted to buy a copy myself, and did. But my advice to you is: don’t.

This is book of its time, with shallow, two-dimensional cut-out characters, full of casual sexism, a plot that plods and what may be the most unsatisfying ending ever written to a political thriller. A missed opportunity.

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