Fletcher Knebel Chad Walsh - Essay

Chad Walsh

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Night of Camp David begins with a standard plot: a junior senator summoned to a mysterious conference with the President, and informed that he is being considered for the vice-presidential nomination. Predictably, the senator—a handsome, lazy lout—has a lush lady friend hidden away, though his own wife—as demonstrated later when she doffs her pajamas and goes swimming by moonlight—is adequately endowed. Predictably, our hero finds himself torn between newly born ambitions and old lusts, and quickly votes for the former.

So far, almost the archetypal political novel, complete with worldly-wise lawyers and cynical political advisers. But what gives Mr. Knebel's tale a fresh twist is the personality of the President, who slowly reveals himself as a top-drawer paranoid with delusions of persecution and grandeur….

The story is swift-moving, and the characters, though not studies in depth, seem plausible enough. There is even a certain poignancy in the unexpected nobility of the President when he donates the surprise ending. For a political thriller—which does indeed dramatize the awesome problems surrounding the office of President—this is distinctly above average.

Chad Walsh, "Split Ticket," in Book Week—New York Herald Tribune (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), May 30, 1965, p. 14.