1962 political thriller is no seven days’ wonder

The White House in Washington D.C.
The White House

Seven Days in May is a thriller by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, a pair of newspaper reporters whose knowledge of the mid-twentieth century Washington political realities infuse every page.

One May Sunday, Marine Colonel Martin J. Casey uncovers what he thinks could be a plot by his boss, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Scott to overthrow the President. Putting his job on the line, Casey discloses his suspicions to the President.

President Lyman takes some convincing, but as evidence mounts, he decides to act. He will act secretly, with help from just a few trusted men and his long-time secretary.

The characters are drawn in broad outline, recognizable as types rather than individuals.

Knebel and Bailey’s strong point is plot. Fifty years after first publication, the story sounds even more plausible than it did against the landscape of the 1960s. If anything, the fictional President’s observation that a frustrated electorate, feeling unable to influence events has “seriously started looking for a superman” rings more true today than it did in 1962.

As to the rest of the setting—a President the people are not quite sure of, high unemployment, economic insecurity, apprehension over potential foreign attacks—sounds like the morning news to me.

Seven Days in May
Fletcher Knebel & Charles W. Bailey II
Harper & Row, 1962
341 pages
My grade: B+
1962 Bestseller #7
Photo of The White House by Edgar0587
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni