Scorpion’s Dance

St. Martin’s. Jun. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781250275837. $29.99. POL SCI
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters at Watergate on June 17, 1972, this book by former Washington Post journalist Morley (The Ghost) chronicles the rise and fall of the scandal’s two principal players: President Richard Nixon and CIA director Richard Helms. Despite their dissimilar backgrounds (Nixon couldn’t afford Harvard Law School, while Helms attended a Swiss boarding school), both served in the Navy and rose to power in a post–World War II “free world” that used aggression against communism. The Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy’s assassination, CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro and other world leaders, the Vietnam War, and domestic surveillance all loom large in this narrative. Morley argues that these events led “the paranoid president and the supple spymaster” into a “scorpions’ dance” of secrets, power struggles, and ultimately, the Watergate affair and its cover-up. This thoroughly researched book also draws on recorded conversations between Nixon and Helms that took place between February 1971 and June 1972.
VERDICT With a complex cast of characters, Cold War espionage, and tense courtroom drama, Morley’s timely book will appeal to readers seeking an in-depth understanding of both Watergate and CIA history.
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