Once Upon a Time in Camelot by James Patrick Hunt looks at 1960’s and 70’s and supposes what might have happened if JFK and RFK weren’t assassinated and Castro didn’t live. It is 1972 and involves a family dynasty, the McCormicks, an Irish family, at the highest levels of politics. The old man, Ben, made his money in bootlegging in Chicago during prohibition, and was ambassador to Germany before WWII and admired Hitler, much to everyone’s eventual embarrassment. His oldest son, Michael, died in WWII; the second son, Dan, was wounded and became president; the third son, Terry, Secretary of Defense, was running for president, following his brother to the highest office; and the fourth son, Andy, was a senator slated to be president.
The other side of this novel involves the gangsters that ruled the economy of the country and served the McCormicks well. There’s a Hollywood connection as well as an entanglement with young starlets in the current White House. Castro was dead, but Cuba was still communist. And Vietnam is the center of controversy in this administration. The gangsters are based in Chicago and the lead guy is Lewis Knowles who has Vince Kegan as his main hit man. Knowles had done business with Ben many years ago and never trusted him. Kegan, a Korean War vet is a simple barber in addition to being the best hit man in the business. Just as oil and water don’t mix, Knowles and the spawn of McCormick don’t mix. It becomes a battle royale.
The spark that puts these two factions together are the theft of a Pentagon Report, by Albert Hirsch, that looks unfavorably on the McCormick presidency and America’s involvement in Vietnam. The McCormicks, the leaders and chief law enforcers of the country want Hirsch dead and hire Knowles to do it. Knowles assigns it to Kegan. Kegan, however has rules, no civilians and Hirsch is a civilian. Hirsch is not mob. It is ironic that Kegan the murderer, the hit man, has rules and the law enforcers of the country, the McCormicks don’t have rules.
Then it goes sideways in a most bizarre twist. This novel is a fun joy ride back through those innocent and intricate times, a behind the scene look from a seat at a Drive In movie watching Vietnam and the Watergate unfold from a different point of view of what if’s. For those of us who lived through those days, this is a fantastic fun read. Terry may remind you of someone we know today.