Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber tells the story of President Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt in what is very nearly “real time.” Wilber, a reporter for The Washington Post and one-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, takes the title from the Secret Service’s code name for Reagan.
With the election nearing, it is interesting to reflect back on the man, the president, who was generally well-liked by the public, even those who disagreed with his politics. In fact, his likability and fine sense of humor permeate the account of the time leading up to his shooting and subsequent surgery, hospital stay, and recovery.
Also prevalent in the account is the now-famous mutual adoration between the former president and his wife, Nancy.
The reader is led to believe that the story will be about the details of the day of the assassination attempt, so when the author initially deviates and shares select anecdotes, characteristics of White House (WH) staff members, details of WH meetings, and personal interactions with various constituent groups, etc., the reader is pulled off track. However, the story quickly recovers, and nuances that color and deepen the events surrounding the assassination attempt and the people involved are shared effectively throughout the remainder of the book. The writing style is direct, entertaining, and of high quality.
Other interesting elements of the book include: the questioning of shooter John Hinckley, Jr., an unstable person who was apparently driven crazy by his infatuation with actress Jodie Foster; the accounts of the actions, decisions and occasional gaffes of Reagan’s Cabinet and those entrusted to protected him; and, perhaps, above all, information about the actions of the medical professionals who had to make quick, high-pressure decisions on how to save Reagan from a very nearly fatal gunshot wound.
Certainly much has been written about Reagan, but this book provides a unique perspective on the man, with unique facts that most readers will no doubt find enjoyable and quite informative.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dave Moyer is a public school superintendent in the Midwest and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.