A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon

History is just a thing of the past! I hear that comment from time to time, and I just chuckle. Understanding the past often helps rationalize the present and may even offer clues to the future.

I was intrigued by the press release for David Stokes latest book Capitol Limited, a work of fiction about the interplay between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon during a train journey before either of them took up residence in the White House.

Capitol Limited falls into the genre that I call Faction. It is the place where Fact and Fiction meet, without doubt it is one of the hardest book genres to master. Historical Novels are ten a penny, pick an historical event and weave your story around it. Faction is a very different beast, there is very little wriggle room. The author knows that one factual mistake will come back to haunt him or her.

David Stokes has rooted his book in 1947, both Nixon and Kennedy were freshman in the House of Representatives. I think it would be fair to say that there was little that they had in common, different party affiliations, different backgrounds and different views on the future of America. Or did they?

In 1947 Nixon and Kennedy at the behest of Frank Buchanan did indeed face off in a debate held in McKeesport, PA. The exact location was the ballroom of the Penn McKee Hotel.


Following the event the two politicians needed to get back to Washington DC, the tool of choice was an overnight train named the Capitol Limited.

It is at this point that David Stokes begins his spellbinding version of the conversation that Jack and Dick might have had while sharing a ‘Sleeping Car’.

There are no recordings of what Richard Nixon and John Kennedy actually talked about on that long train journey, But I am greatly impressed by Capitol Limited, the author obviously knows his history.

The key in producing faction is attention to detail. I can find no flaws in this book. Rather, I think it is a delightful way of compressing the most significant decades of the 20th century into 147 pages.

John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were not enemies, they were just two people with a similar goal, but came from different sides.

The treatment that David Stokes has given to the contentious period of the decades between 1940 and 1980 is fabulous. It is full of tid bits that are missing from most standard history books. I am a bit of a history and politics junkie and must admit that repeatedly I found myself ‘googling’ events and people mentioned in Capitol Limited.

This book would make a wonderful cornerstone to an educational course about the politics of the 20th century, not just at home, but also abroad. Although Capitol Limited is a quick read at 147 pages it is so rich in content that you should treat it like a fine wine, sip and savor, rather than gulp.

You can get your own copy of Capitol Limited by clicking the Amazon link above. David Stokes also has a web site about this and his other books, www.davidrstokes.com.

Simon Barrett

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