An Honest Town

Shehryar Fazli in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ScreenHunter_2704 May. 20 21.48The 2016 presidential election, with its tides of rage, party divisions, and Russian meddling, was always going to howl for the kind of radical treatment given to earlier historic campaigns, like Norman Mailer’s and Joe McGinniss’s books on the 1968 race, Hunter S. Thompson’s and Timothy Crouse’s dispatches from 1972, and David Foster Wallace’s profile of John McCain’s 2000 bid.

Now former Huffington Post reporter Scott Conroy has given us one of the first of an expected horde of books on the 2016 election, but with a soda-straw view that delivers intriguing results. Vote First or Die: The New Hampshire Primary: America’s Discerning, Magnificent, Absurd Road to the White House — a mouthful of a title, perhaps — offers a good helping of telling particulars about the most eccentric and often most important stop on the presidential nomination calendar.

Like those earlier works, Conroy’s account is highly personalized, and much of the fun comes from seeing this peculiar place through the eyes of an often-tentative intruder. Speaking directly to the reader, for example, he recommends the Errol Motel as a cozy option if one needs “to dispose of a corpse.” Of a man he meets during a protest, Conroy writes, “as nice as he was, Bill seemed like the kind of guy who might mistake me on a foggy morning for a tasty looking wild turkey and take a shot at me.” A revealing New Hampshire idiosyncrasy he uncovers is the local prestige associated with low-numbered license plates, and how former Governor John H. Sununu used to offer one of these coveted items to sway a state senator’s endorsement toward a particular candidate.

More here.