“You couldn’t have gotten there. You don’t—surely you don’t—have a sense of guilt about that?”
The most gripping part about Clint Hill’s memoir “Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford” comes in one of the final chapters. After letting it simmer under the surface for most of the book, fallout from Hill’s role in the JFK assassination comes bursting out in an interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes.” To anyone familiar with Hill, a 17-year Secret Service vet and bestselling author of two other books about the Kennedys (“Mrs. Kennedy and Me” and “Five Days in November“), this should come as no surprise. Hill was not merely serving on the Kennedy detail on November 23, 1963; he was the one who jumped on the back of the limousine in an attempt to block the shots. Since that date, Hill’s life and legacy have been inextricably tied to the American tragedy. And when Wallace asks him the above question, 12 years after the fact, he had never before discussed his part in it to another living soul. No wonder the dam burst.
Although his relationship with the Kennedy clan is the lifeblood of Hill’s recollections, that does not mean that his work for the other four titular presidents plays second fiddle. One of the best parts about a memoir like this, from someone who served administrations of both parties, is an evenhandedness of account that you don’t normally get from people with access to power at the highest level. With the exception of Richard Nixon, for whom Hill cannot manage to even thinly veil his contempt, the author is able to provide a compelling and vivid picture of real-life men who actually led the free world. It is easy to treat these dead mean as characters in a history book—as relatable in the present day as Alexander Hamilton or Ulysses Grant. But Hill is able to effectively show them occupying a world not that long lost.
Of course, one of the reasons many people pick up a Secret Service memoir in the first place is in search of scandal. (Who can forget the minor media squall when an author alleged female Secret Service agents were offended by now President-elect Joe Biden’s penchant for skinny dipping). This is not that book. Most of the things now generally known about past presidents’ private lives, such as JFK’s innumerable affairs, are not mentioned here. This is a credit to the author. Hill’s discreetness is likely just the kind of quality needed to survive nearly two decades in the White House.
Older readers will enjoy “Five Presidents” for its recounting of history, providing the ability to read along and reminisce about past events. Younger readers interested in world events will like to learn about facts not often taught in the history books. For example, Hill tells about Nixon fulfilled his promise to reduce the U.S. presence in Vietnam to nearly zero, something that apparently made him popular at the time but that no one remembers today.
Even though it was written after Hill’s other books, this might be the one to start with. As a survey of sorts, one can see if they like the style of Hill and frequent writing partner Lisa McCubbin. If so, Hill has made a font of knowledge available on the topic that most haunts him.
Book Review: ‘The Final Girl Support Group’
Release Date: July 2021
Cozy up on your next snow day and read Gary Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group.
Author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020), Grady Hendrix succeeds again in tapping into our favorite horror films to deliver this mystery. Six young women make up the “Final Girl Support Group.” Each survived horrific massacres that have been turned into successful film franchises. Movies such as Friday The 13th and Halloween actually happened in this version of America. Twenty years later the spotlight has moved on and society has found new monsters and victims. Still, these women sit in a circle of chairs in a church basement trying to figure out how to live their lives. Paranoid Lynnette Tarkington reluctantly participates in group therapy sessions with Dr. Carol Elliot along with fellow survivors Marilyn Torres, who has buried her emotions in wealth; Dani Shipman, who might have killed the wrong person; Julia Campbell, whose encounter left her in a wheelchair; and Heather DeLuca, who is succumbing to addiction. Some of them are in denial about what happened. Some still live in terror, always looking over their shoulders, imprisoned by their own fears.
After one member of this vigilant sisterhood is murdered and a series of persistent attacks threaten the rest, Lynnette becomes increasingly suspicious that the attacks are originating way too close to their inner circle. “Does this ever end?” Lynnette asks. “Will there always be someone out there turning little boys into monsters? Will we always be final girls? Will there always be monsters killing us? How do we stop the snake from eating its own tail?” The book is creepy enough on its face, but Hendrix’s use of narrative tools heightens the unease.
The Final Girl Support Group isn’t necessarily scary, but the plot is action-packed and delivers its share of gore. The novel is an ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination. Available on Amazon!
Book Review: ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’
I first read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo this past month after my friend and I swapped our favorite summer books. I opened the book one Saturday morning and couldn’t put it down. Despite the fact that it was published nearly five years ago, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo continues to captivate readers’ interest on BookTok, Bookstagram, and Goodreads.
This story is about renowned Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo who, after decades of blockbuster hits, is now 79 and ready to give an exclusive interview after years of dodging the press. But the only one granted access is a little-known journalist named Monique Grant. Though she can’t understand why she’s been chosen, Monique goes to Evelyn’s home and finds out Evelyn doesn’t just want to do an interview — she wants to lay out every piece of her truth for Monique to write and sell her biography.
Though Evelyn won’t answer why she picked Monique to do the job, Monique agrees and Evelyn’s story begins to unfold from her calculated beginnings in Hollywood to the millions she enjoys in the present, each section of her life titled by each of her seven husbands and her reasons for marrying (and divorcing) them. As you journey through Evelyn’s life, it feels as if you’re being granted exclusive access to something you shouldn’t be seeing. It’s hard to believe the characters and events in this book aren’t real celebrities.
To me, a great book is one that makes you forget you’re reading in the first place, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo does exactly that. It’s an instantly captivating book, thanks in part to the story, but mostly to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. Her stories flow smoothly, her characters are complex and realistically flawed, and I happily got lost in the pages until the very end. This is the perfect cozy fall read!
Book Review: ‘Verity’ By Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is all the rage this summer. The author’s 2016 romance novel It Ends With Us gained fame due to the viral nature of #BookTok (the book lover’s community on TikTok). I’ve always loved reading, especially during the summer months by the beach and pool. Surely because of this, my “For You Page” has been flooding with recommendations and reviews as to what to read next. I can without a doubt say that Verity is worth the hype.
Verity was first published in 2018 and has only just become available worldwide in paperback. I started reading Colleen Hoover last summer when I first discovered It Ends With Us on #BookTok and have read four of her other books since. Given that I finished this one in a day, I would say it is extremely readable!
Verity is different from Hoover’s usual style and genre of romance. This novel is twisting, unsettling, creepy, and psychologically mind-bending. From the beginning, I could not put it down. The plot follows protagonist, Lowen Ashleigh, a struggling writer who accepts a job offer to complete the remaining books of an unfinished, successful series. Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen due to his wife’s serious injuries. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. With shades of Gillian Flynn blending in with Hoover’s classic take on romance, our protagonist finds herself uncovering a story so horrifying, and all the while, falling for a grieving man. There is a thrilling twist at the end, which I am happy to debate, but I’m not giving any spoilers until you read it for yourself! Overall, I highly recommend the purchase. Find it on Amazon.