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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perennial open-season on Presidents, 11 May 2014
This review is from: Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts--From FDR to Obama (Hardcover)
This remarkable chronology of threats and attempts against the lives of thirteen US Presidents leaves one wondering why would anybody want to occupy such a high-profile and dangerous position at all? Moreover, why would anybody wish to risk their lives to help protect the incumbents of the White House by becoming members of the Secret Service White House Detail?

The first thing that impresses about `Hunting The President' is the sheer number of threats and attempts that have been made in the last seventy years. The Secret Service recorded and analysed all warnings directed at the various Presidents (and their immediate families) and the annual figures are quite staggering. One average presented here suggests that the president is threatened once every six hours.

Mel Ayton shows that no President has been exempt from the wrath of his electorate. It seems that regardless of political stripe or policy, there has always been somebody, somewhere who sought to kill the man at the top.

Ayton notes that many of the menaces turned out to be little more than the posturing of `unwell' or drunken citizens whose ravings were never more than hot air. But, in amongst the braggadocio there have been some very serious assassination attempts. Indeed, within the span of the author's work here, Lee Oswald's murderous attack on JFK in '63 marks the nadir of the phenomena.

The names of Pavlick, Hinckley and Fromme will be known to many readers, of course, but there are a host of others uncovered by the author whose names and deeds had been discretely left to fade away by the Secret Service. Some sort of conspiracy? No; simply a case of the White House Detail allowing `sleeping-dogs-to-lie' lest copy-cat attacks drew inspiration from them.

Because of the depth and variety of Ayton's sources, the reader is able to enjoy some very revealing insights and anecdotes that members of the Secret Service were privy to about the men (and their families) that they were duty-bound to protect. There are some real surprises here.

It struck me that those Presidents I had hitherto regarded as being aloof and distant, were, in fact, nothing of the kind. Men such as Ford, Reagan and the two Bushes, were all well-liked by their various White House Details and they were considered to be helpful, friendly and understanding.

Others whose public personas suggested warmth and humility - such as Carter and Clinton - are revealed as being rather nasty. The Secret Service wasn't particularly enamoured of two `first-ladies', either. I won't say who they were, but the author pulls no punches.

The various chief executives covered in Ayton's study all had their own views and relationships with the men of the protective detail and the author captures many of those differing views very well indeed.

The disclosure that an agent once punched a President in the eye had me rocking in my chair. Unbelievable? No; quite true and solidly sourced by Mel Ayton. When you get your copy, go straight to page 75 and see for yourself.

For readers who have an interested in post-war US Presidents and the men who protected them, this is a great read. Ayton's high standards of research ensure a fascinating and reliable insight into thirteen presidents, countless dedicated and brave Secret Service agents and a veritable catalogue of cranks, drunks, would-be killers and one man who made no threat at all but hid at a window and claimed the infamy that so many others featured in this book, all sought for themselves.

Buy, read and enjoy.
Barry Ryder
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "wonderfully written book"!, 24 April 2014
I can say with confidence this is one of the most fascinating collections of stories about how presidents have faced danger. The author, amazingly, has found key snippets of information hitherto ignored or undiscovered in the vast available body of work on the subject and cites them persuasively. Amongst the many would-be assassin stories he has researched (many new and never-before-told) include :
• How an armed would-be assassin stalked President Roosevelt and spent ten days waiting across the street from the White House for his chance to shoot him.
• The story of a deranged Army deserter, Roosevelt-hater and expert bomb maker, who planned to become the first presidential suicide bomber..
• The story of a KGB plot to kill President Eisenhower on his pre-inaugural trip to Korea.
• The story of a would-be assassin who targeted JFK when the president visited Tennessee.
• How the Secret Service foiled a plot by a ‘Cuban immigrant’ who told co-workers he was going to shoot LBJ from a window overlooking the president’s motorcade route.
• The story of Arthur Bremer’s plans to assassinate Richard Nixon.
• How the Secret Service discovered an alleged plot by Fidel Castro’s intelligence agents to blow up Nixon’s Key Biscayne, Florida home.
• The story of the Secret Service’s manhunt for a would-be assassin who drove to Key Biscayne to shoot Nixon.
• How the Secret Service foiled an ‘assassin for hire’ plot to kill Nixon.
• The would-be Chicago assassin who was killed before he had a chance to shoot Nixon.
• How two men plotted to kill Ford on the day of the Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme assassination attempt.
• How would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley chose President Carter as his first target and why he changed his mind.
• How the Secret Service foiled a plot to firebomb California Governor Ronald Reagan’s home.
• The story of ‘Catman’, a Reagan stalker who came within feet of the president.
• How a deranged man broke into Reagan’s California home and attempted to ‘strangle’ the former president before he was subdued by Secret Service agents.
• How President George H.W. Bush avoided an assassination attempt when a mentally deranged and ‘dangerous’ would-be assassin, who wanted to ‘become famous’, turned up at the wrong presidential venue.

• During Bush’s re-election campaign a mentally ill woman, who used Sara Jane Moore as a “role model”, came close to shooting Bush as he passed her in his limousine at a campaign event.
• In 1998 three men, who were described as members of a little known radical separatist organization, the Republic of Texas planned to inject President Clinton with a hypodermic needle coated with a biological agent such as anthrax, botulism or HIV.
• The story of how a Florida man waited for a week outside the White House to shoot Clinton when the president went jogging around the streets of Washington.
• How, in 2003, an Arab-origin American citizen born to Jordanian parents planned to shoot President George W. Bush, getting “close enough to shoot him, or (he) would use a car bomb”.
• How a 22 year old Saudi citizen and former Texas Tech University chemical engineering student, angry at the plight of Muslims worldwide and blaming President Bush, planned to kill the former president in 2011.
• How President –elect Obama was targeted at his inauguration by a white supremacist US Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
• The story of how two Tennessee men plotted to kill 88 people and decapitate 14 African Americans before ending their killing spree with the assassination of Barack Obama.
• How Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people, plotted to assassinate President Barack Obama at the ceremony where the president collected his Nobel Peace Prize.
• The story of four US soldiers who formed an anarchist militia and plotted to assassinate Obama.
• How 21 year old Idaho man, who fired shots at the White House with an automatic weapon, plotted to kill President Obama.
Each chapter includes accounts of assassination attempts, assassination threats and plots against each individual president since FDR and places them on a level of ‘dangerousness’. The book also provides case studies and examples of each type of person who has threatened the president of the day, including obsessive presidential stalkers, mentally unbalanced fanatics and the politically motivated would-be assassins.
This is a wonderfully written book, all the more so because the author avoids the turgid academic prose which is found in similar books on the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and insightful, 16 May 2014
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Who would be an American President with an assorted array of weirdos, psychos and just plain deranged nutters willing to have a go at you day or night. Mel Ayton's book uncovers a lot of information that I'm sure the Secret Service would rather have stayed 'secret'. Well written in a punchy but informative style that keeps interest going all the way through.
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