This is the second in my series of Alternate Fictional History novel wakthroughs. Fortunately the actual course of history has again turned out better than the novels! In general, what leads me to select these novel works is that they are written with then-fictional elements which *subsequently* become actual news.
The introduction by James Earl Jones remarks that Irving Wallace's novel The Man, depicting a tragic unexpected death of a President, was completed about September 1963, just weeks before the tragic unexpected death of President John F. Kennedy. It later describes the Impeachement trial of the subsequent President who succeeded office. Since at the time of writing the only Impeached President was Andrew Jackson, this was a fairly bold fictional premise. As we now know, and what probably pompted a reprinting of the novel, President Bill Clinton was Impeached on on December 19, 1998. However, that is *still* not why this novel was chosen.
This novel was chosen for a Walkthrough because it describes the results of the *First Black President* of the United States!
Now it gets interesting!
Of course, a lot has transpired since 1963. It turns out that the crux of the novel's plot was about race issues. In the novel, the novel's President Douglass Dilman gets Impeached as a result of racial bias and just barely becomes aquitted by a single vote. This turn of events is no cheap plot device, such as when bombs in TV shows are disarmed with seconds left. President Andrew Johnson only survived his Impeachment by a single vote. Irving Wallace explicitly indicates he did his homework, and uses the President Johnson trial as his backdrop to his fictionalized setting.
James Earl Jones is not just a "random Black man to write an introduction." It turns out that there was actually a movie version of The Man made in 1972 and James Earl Jones played President Douglass Dilman. Using modern IMDB techniques, I see that "James Earl Jones is older than you think". The actor had already had a decade of experience in stage and then film, so he was far from a "fresh greenhorn". But still, 1972 was before the age of the BlockBuster film. (Note 1)
Douglass Dilman is described as a mid line under-the-radar politician who votes as he needs to, but stays out of the firebrand side of politics. However, due to a complex political favor, he winds up a Pro Tempore leader of the Senate. It just so happens, (as arranged by plot events) that the position is third in line for the Presidency when both President and Vice President pass on in office. In the novel, the Vice President is a cardboard fill in -he died of "something or other" (my words), meaning that there is already a structural gapin the succession line. The novel describes how moderately popular President "T. C. (The Chief)" dies in a tragic unexpected fashion (not a shooting, in a building collapse in a European negotiation.).
Okay, so in a sense, an assassination of a President is worse than an accidental building collapse from negligence. However, I must say as a commentator in 2012, "that is old news". (Note 2) The reprint of the book was done in 1999. This was new enough to cover/ inspired by the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton for his relationship affairs. However, as hinted to earlier, we still have one more kicker left in this novel.
We have our First Black President.
We have come a long way since 1963 - It's approaching fifty years since the primary writing of this novel, and it turns out the racial problems so thematic to the book have largely simmered down. However, they have not entirely gone away - what is commonly called the Birth Question of Obama's origins is a faint echo of the racial turmoil described in this novel from 1963. (Note 3)
James Earl Jones remarks that in the 1970's when the low budget movie was produced, "there was a general public insistence that a Black Man be militant." The initial shock of both the novel and the movie was that a Black Man could be both reasoned and quietly introspective. James Earl Jones remarks in passing that Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, wrote the television screenplay.
James Earl Jones goes on to explain that besides the simplifications typically necessary when making a 750 page novel into a screenplay, 1972 was also a "time when television shows had to be very careful about racial issues and themes. Since that is the punchline of the novel, that racial hatred was so intense as to send us to an Impeachment trial, to eliminate that key plot moment shows us in retrospect the necessities of 1972. (Note 4)
What we see now is, that after a fairly lightweight impeachment trial of President Clinton, that the Republican Party used up their best weapon, so that President Obama has emerged as a decent President. Not great, many flaws can be found, but better than several. Except for the fringe Birth flap, nothing serious along the lines of the novel has emerged.