David Frost expands on Nixon interviews

2009-03-18 00:00

YOU have seen the film, now David Frost wants you to read the book. It is a sequel to an earlier book on his Nixon interviews, expanded with more reflections on Richard Nixon after he left office, and including transcripts of part of the interviews.

Frost includes an introduction that discusses how playwright Peter Morgan came to write the play upon which the recent Oscar-nominated film is based. He candidly admits that it took him months to agree to Morgan’s stipulation that he would have no editorial control over the play. He says he found parts of the play difficult to accept. This introduction gives, I think, an insight into why Frost has released this book. He obviously feels very proprietorial towards his interviews with Richard Nixon, the crowning achievement of his long journalistic life, and sees an opportunity to put himself once again centre stage.

Reviews of the film have pointed out that Nixon’s admission of guilt over Watergate was not quite as clear cut in the original interviews as the film suggests, one going so far as to say that for a film based on historical events it is astonishingly powerful, but very inaccurate. This is attributable to the power of the brilliant portrayal of Nixon by Frank Langella, and to the reordering of events by Morgan, which places the Watergate interview at the end of the process, rather than in the middle, where it was actually filmed.

It is a fascinating story, but not one that I am certain needs to be retold in such exhaustive detail as it is here, especially as Frost is not an especially gifted writer. The result is rather plodding, and there are surely better histories of Watergate and more incisive considerations of the Nixon presidency available to those who are interested in the era.

Kate Hoole

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