What If Explosive Headlines Were On Steroids?

If you are like the majority in this nation you consider the current headlines of the day unbelievable, galling, and beyond the pale. It would seem the tonic for such times would be a soothing piece of music or a book about the lush green world of Ireland.

About two weeks ago after having my fill of news from Washington I went on the hunt for a book that would take me to someplace far from the current events. I had not considered opening the pages of a rollicking international political thriller. Nor did I expect to be reading my first Mario Puzo novel. With his The Godfather being one of my top-ten favorite all-time films it might seem odd that none of Puzo’s books had made it to my reading pile.

As I soon discovered the synopsis of the 1991 novel The Fourth K by Puzo was reaching out to me, akin to his Corleone movie character’s classic line to “pull me back in.” I was not leaving the world of Washington, after all.

The epic story is simply a steroid packed drama that begins with the audacious assassination of a pope and then gets tenser from that page onwards! There is a Kennedy connection, as if the title does not give a clue. There is a constitutional crisis and the use of the 25th Amendment. There is a Middle East crisis. And plenty of well-plotted character developments in each chapter.

President Francis Xavier Kennedy is elected to office, in large part, thanks to the legacy of his forebears– good looks, privilege, wealth–and is the very embodiment of youthful optimism. Too soon, however, he is beaten down by the political process and, disabused of his ideals, he becomes a leader totally unlike what he has been before.

When his daughter becomes a pawn in a brutal terrorist plot, Kennedy, who has obsessively kept alive the memory of his uncles’ assassinations, activates all his power to retaliate in a series of violent measures. As the explosive events unfold, the world and those closest to him look on with both awe and horror.

I finished the book early this week and still have not been able to answer my question as to how this gem never before came to my attention. I loved the over-the-top plot and the deeper questions of character and public responsibility the author wanted readers to ponder.

Truly a delight!