During the early morning hours of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The incarcerated individuals would be linked to the re-election campaign of the 37th President of the United States of America, Richard Nixon. While the arrests were taking place, President Nixon, and his Chief of Staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, were in Key Biscayne, Florida, and did not return back to Washington, D.C. until June 20th. Convening for a meeting at the White House that morning, Nixon and Haldeman spoke about Watergate, among other topics. The conversation lasted approximately sixty-nine minutes; like many conversations that take place in the Oval Office, it was recorded. (As an aside: The process of recording conversations to keep an historical record is something that was first implemented by America’s 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt and continues until this day with the current Obama administration).
Almost a year and half after the conversation was taped, The Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (The Watergate Committee) discovered that 18 1/2 minutes from the June 20th conversation had been erased. Facing certain impeachment, relating to Watergate, President Nixon resigned his office on August 9, 1974. What if, however, the actions Nixon took in regard to Watergate, amongst other things, were really that of a flawed savior instead of an outright sinner? A man, who through self-reflection, realized his personal short comings, and knew that because of a series of fortunate events, and the times in which he lived, that he had been able to rise to a position in American government, that was unfathomable. A President that wanted to protect not only America, but the world at large from sinister, supernatural forces, that only he and a privileged few throughout history, knew the true existence of. Those are just several of the questions that author and video game designer Austin Grossman poses in his alternative history novel “Crooked.”
The captivating, meticulously researched, sometimes humorous, and well conceived, 368 page novel was published by Mulholland Books on July 28, 2015. The book is written from the first person narrative of an extremely candid Nixon, and the majority of the story takes place after the end of the second World War.
Numerous historical figures of prominence appear throughout the novel, for example, America’s 34th and 40th Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Additionally, Grossman writes Nixon’s wife, First Lady Pat Nixon, as a woman who has long been suffering in an unloving marriage, that is devoid of passion, to a man she no longer cares for, but staying true to her marriage vows, remains loyally by Nixon’s side. Former National Security Advisor, and Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, takes on a role of great importance in the advancement of the plot. In the case of Kissinger, Grossman imagines that in actuality, he is not a mere mortal, but instead a thousand year old necromancer.
Grossman traverses all sorts of interesting scenarios in the novel, beginning with Nixon’s introduction to supernatural beings, while a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. Grossman writes about a Nixon one could scarcely imagine, but does thanks to his prose. A Richard Nixon that is trailing through the streets of New York City, and attempting to capture accused spy, former U.S. State Department and United Nations Official, Alger Hiss, in the act of espionage against America on behalf of the Soviet Union. After Nixon discovers the evidence he needs to get a conviction against Hiss, he returns to catch him in the act. Instead of finding Hiss, however, special soviet agents are not only waiting for him, but want to sacrifice Nixon to a supernatural entity. That is the catalyst which brings Nixon into the unseen world. Afterward Grossman imagines Nixon working closely with KGB operatives, Arkady and Tatiana, who are not spies in the traditional sense. For example, one of the missions they send Nixon on, during his time as a Congressman from California’s twelfth district, is to a top secret research facility in Pawtuxet, Massachusetts. At the facility things that shouldn’t exist do, and paranormal experimentation takes place on a grand scale.
Grossman also delves into President Eisenhower using supernatural powers to win military battles. Additionally, he speculates as to what was truly said during the missing 18 1/2 minutes of the erased conversation pertaining to the Watergate break-in. I haven’t used direct quotes from the book, nor have I gotten into a tremendous amount of specific plot detail, because for those of you who are interested in reading the novel, the less I comment on how different scenarios come to fruition the better. “Crooked” is an entertaining read from start to finish. Every time I was about to turn off the light to go to bed, even though I had to get up early the next morning, I kept wanting to read just a few more pages in order to find out what would happen next.