Three Books To Vote Home About
With the 2015 UK general election taking place tomorrow, it's time to get in the political mood with titles from authors Jeffrey Toobin, Hunter S Thompson and Peter Geoghegan
It should have come as no surprise – after all, the American public had not voted in consecutive Democratic administrations since 1940, when wartime President Franklin D Roosevelt was chosen to continue the fight against Hitler's Nazis. What did come as a surprise, however, was just how close the call was, in the end.
Democratic nominee and Bill Clinton's Vice President, Al Gore had exceeded expectations, and many believed the White House was his. But a recount in Florida, after many ballets were deemed to have been tampered with, led to a Supreme Court showdown that would ultimately put George W Bush in the hot seat once inhabited by his father, George Bush Sr.
A foregone conclusion? Perhaps. But never has an American Presidential election made so many headlines, nor ended in such drama, with the American public betting millions of dollars on their chosen victor. Jeffrey Toobin's book charts the whole messy chapter from start to finish, a thrilling read detailing one of American's most unpalatable political episodes.
Hunter S Thompson – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72
The godfather of gonzo journalism, Hunter S Thompson changed the face of political print journalism with these series of essays charting the 1972 American Presidential campaign. With serving President Richard 'Tricky Dicky' Nixon once again representing the Republicans – after previously losing to golden boy John F Kennedy in 1960, and a successful campaign in '68 – it was up to George McGovern to lead the charge for the Democrats.
McGovern did not ensure the candidacy, however, until emerging successful from a bloody infight with fellow Democrat Hubert Humphrey, which Thompson documents with caustic wit, unflinching honesty and a fevered intelligence that was – and some would say, still is – markedly absent from mainstream political journalism.
Thompson spends his time following various campaign buses around various American states, chatting with staffers in hotel bars, writing for hours in darkened rooms, bowing to no man in his determination to tell the story as he sees it. 'With the truth so dull and depressing,' he writes, 'the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.'
Thompson's essays were initially serialised in Rolling Stone magazine, and later published in a single volume. For anyone in search of a book that reveals the true grit of a political presidential campaign, warts, bitching, backstabbing and all, On the Campaign Trail is the perfect place to start.
Peter Geoghegan – The People’s Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never Be the Same Again
It's a bold statement, but Geoghegan backs it up with an academic's eye for detail and a journalist's flair for storytelling, travelling the length and breadth of Scotland to interview working men and women, business people fretting on the border, politicians barking at the mic and many individuals still on the fence as Scotland decides between Yes and No.
Longford-born Geoghegan studied in Edinburgh and wrote The People's Referendum from his permanent base in Glasgow. His first book, A Difficult Difference: Race, Religion and the new Northern Ireland, ultimately fed into his second, providing Geoghegan with an insight into how nationalism and unionism can ultimately push and pull a country apart at the seams.
Having reported on similar independence campaigns from the Basque country and elsewhere across Europe, Geoghegan sets the Scottish vote in a wider context, and his book is all the better for it. As David Cameron sheds a crocodile tear to drive No votes, and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond strides purposefully toward his destiny, Geoghegan follows, invariably positioning himself in the eye of the storm as Scotland faces up to the idea of an uncertain independence.
The New Statesman described The People's Referendum as 'the best piece of work to emerge' from the Scottish independence referendum, and it is a book that documents a monumental public vote that will, no doubt, prove to be much more interesting than anything that happens on May 7.