Political novel based on real-life affair, author says
September 08, 2010 - Assassinations. Race riots. Anti-war demonstrations. Violent clashes between police and protesters.
|Oxford author Richard Halladay’s new political novel about the 1968 election is due out at the end of this month. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)|
This was the backdrop against which the 1968 U.S. presidential election was conducted.
History books are chock full of the events that surrounded the tumultuous race between Republican Richard M. Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Independent George Wallace.
But what history doesn't record is that Humphrey, who was the vice president under President Lyndon Johnson, allegedly had an affair with a young Swedish woman.
Oxford resident Richard Halladay claims he not only knew about the relationship, but he also knew the woman in question.
Now, 42 years later, the retired advertising executive has written a political novel that weaves together history, his personal experiences and a healthy dose of fiction to create a "shocking and heretofore untold account of how murder, sex and hardball politics stained America's 1968 presidential election."
"1968 was such a contentious year," Halladay said. "There was so much happening."
Published by the Sterling Heights-based Harmonie Park Press, the book is called "Ragtop Doll" and it's due out later this month.
The novel is set between Feb. 1 and Nov. 6, 1968.
It opens in the Huron County Jail in Bad Axe, Michigan. From there the novel takes the reader all over the world – Manhattan, Stockholm, Washington D.C., the Syrian countryside outside of Damascus, and the historic fishing village of Fiskebackskil on Sweden's picturesque west coast.
"The book came together over several years," said Halladay who worked in advertising from the early 1960s until he retired from D'Arcy Worldwide in 2001. "I spent a lot of time in my business traveling. I wrote on airplanes and I wrote at night in hotel rooms all over the world."
When asked how much of the book is fact and how much is fiction, he replied, "I'm not going to put a percentage on it." But he noted, "I knew most of the players in the book."
Halladay wishes to assure readers that the book is meant to be read for pure enjoyment.
"This is not a political statement," he said.
At the center of his book is a character named Elin Lindstrom, a smart, strong-willed and multilingual Swedish beauty, who has become a confidant of key players on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the 1968 election.
Halladay claims the Lindstrom character is based on a woman who's still alive today and residing in Sweden. He first met her in Ann Arbor in the early 1960s.
Unlike many of the women who bed politicians, Halladay said this wasn't someone who was simply attracted to powerful men.
"I wouldn't say that at all," he said. "She had her own agenda. You have to read the book.
"She was smart enough to use people, but she couldn't follow through on her ultimate goals because she didn't want to harm her father's (goals). She couldn't be too up front while he was alive."
He says this woman, who's identity he won't disclose, was introduced to Humphrey by President John F. Kennedy.
"She did have a relationship with Mr. Humphrey," Halladay said.
In the book, it's written this "Lindstrom" had an affair with Kennedy as well. But Halladay indicated he doesn't know this to be true. He only knows the real-life woman the character's based on spent a lot of time at the White House pool.
"I can't speak to JFK," he said. "I know he was present on more than one occasion when she was at the White House."
So, how does Halladay know all this?
Because he also knew Hubert Humphrey. The two met in 1964 at a mutual friend's apartment in Washington D.C. They subsequently saw each other on quite a few occasions, the last time being in April 1972 when they met for lunch in Detroit.
Halladay said "the first thing out of his mouth" was a question about how the Swedish woman was doing.
During the course of that meal, Halladay said he told Humphrey, "Someday I may turn this into a bit of a story."
Humphrey replied, "Well Dick, just make sure I'm dead when you do it."
"He's dead and I'm doing it," Halladay said.
Besides "Lindstrom" and Humphrey, who died in 1978, Halladay also knew Nixon, whom he met in California in 1953, and the men who ran the legendary Republican's campaign in 1968.
At the time, Halladay worked for the J. Walter Thompson Company, a Manhattan-based advertising agency.
Halladay's colleagues at the agency included many of the heavy-hitters involved in the Nixon campaign such as Bob Haldeman, Dwight Chapin, Ron Ziegler and Harry Treleavan.
Following the 1968 campaign, Haldeman became Nixon's White House chief-of-staff, Ziegler was the president's press secretary and Chapin was Nixon's appointments secretary.
Halladay also met John Mitchell, who managed Nixon's 1968 campaign and later became the U.S. Attorney General.
Amazingly, both in the book and in real life, none of these men found out about Humphrey's alleged affair with "Lindstrom" until it was too late to use it as a political weapon.
Halladay said it was just days before the election and the Nixon team realized if they informed the press, the reporters would have probably viewed it as a "last-minute ploy," which could have damaged the campaign's credibility.
So, the story of Humphrey's alleged affair with "Lindstrom" never saw the light of day – until now.
For more information about "Ragtop Doll," visit www.harmonieparkpress.com.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.