Executive Orders (novel)

American flag is background for author’s name, book title
Clancy’s focus is America.

Within minutes after Jack Ryan is sworn in to serve as a one-year caretaker vice president, Jack Ryan finds himself President. A kamikaze attack on the Capitol has killed President Durling, the entire Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs, all but two of the Cabinet members, and most of the members of the House and Senate.

Suddenly Ryan’s “caretaking” means putting the federal government back together again. America’s enemies see the greenhorn president as an opportunity too good not to exploit.

Threats arise on all sides.

The president of Iraq is assassinated and Iran’s chief cleric assumes control of what he declares to be a United Islamic state.

China and India both create distractions.

At home, Ryan is harassed by the former vice-president, the media, and staff members who expect him to be political and presidential.

Terrorists devise a way to sneak the Ebola virus into US convention centers. They activate sleeper agents to kill the President and kidnap his children.

To follow Executive Orders, you’ll need to keep your atlas handy, but Tom Clancy is a marvelous storyteller. He packs with information worth knowing without letting it overwhelm the story.

I suspect few people under 60 will be able to follow Clancy’s story today.

That’s their loss, and America’s.

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
G. P. Putnam. ©1996. 874 p.
1996 bestseller #2; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Preserve and Protect taut political thriller

Washington DC buildings, 1st edition jacket of Preserve and Protect
First edition cover.

Preserve and Protect is a logical development  of the political landscapes Allen Drury envisioned in Advise and Consent (1959),  A Shade of Difference (1962),  and Capable of Honor (1966).

Allen Drury plunges readers into American politics as it might be played if violence becomes a political tool.

Sometime in the post-LBJ era, Air Force One has crashed, killing an American president on his return to Washington after garnering his party’s nomination.

The Speaker of the House, William Abbott, assumes the presidency until elections can be held. He carries on the policies of his predecessor, Harvey Hudson, keeping American troops in Africa and Panama and retaining Orrin Knox as Secretary of State.

That continuity brings Abbott into direct confrontation with a coalition of extremist groups out to control the presidency by electing Ted Jason, a man they think they can control.

Preserve and Protect is a stronger novel — there’s less author commentary — than the other three novels in Drury’s series.

Readers are left in no doubt as to Drury’s position, but here they have the pleasure of thinking they figured it out themselves.

The characters met in earlier novels seem to have grown more complex, the issues less clear.

The book slips from political novel toward political thriller.

Drury pulls all the threads together skillfully in a shocking — but totally logical — conclusion.


Preserve and Protect by Allen Drury
Doubleday, 1968. 394 pages. 1968 bestseller #6. My grade A-.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Those Who Love: Romantic, Educational, Hopeful

John Adams was “nothing but a lawyer” when Abigail Smith married him, but he was determined to be the best lawyer he could be.

Early on, John spent weeks “riding circuit” while “Nabby” took care of house, farm, and family.

Abigail and John


Those Who Love by Irving Stone

Doubleday, 1965. 647 pages. 1965 bestseller #6. My grade A-.


As John rose professionally, even more of the couple’s lives were lived apart. Fortunately for us, both were prolific writers of letters and journals.

By careful selection and judicious updating of the 18th century language, Irving Stone transformed their words into a novel that rings true today.

Since Stone published his novel about the Adams family, their lives were chronicled on stage and on television. Those productions may have rendered the general outline of their lives familiar, making Stone’s nuanced novel all the more appealing.

Stone relates Those Who Love primarily from Abigail’s perspective, revealing the bread and butter aspects of the long struggle to build a nation.

That vantage point allows Stone to downplay the partisanship and animosities almost split America in the days of Adams, Tom Jefferson, and  Ben Franklin.

Reading Those Who Love may give us hope that statesmen may arise to pull together our own divided national government.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The portrait of Abigail Adams is from the National First Ladies Library. It was painted by an unknown artist at the time of her wedding. The portrait of John Adams by Asher Brown Durand was released by the United States Navy with the ID 031029-N-6236G-001. Both works are in the public domain.

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