Picks and Pans Review: Lyndon

updated 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Merle Miller

Miller, who wrote Plain Speaking, the peppery oral biography of Harry Truman, says he conducted 180 interviews for this ambitious book about President Johnson and also used 276 oral recollections from the Johnson library. No one held much back. This kind of history-by-tape-recorder does detail complexities that, at the time, were overlooked. In 1948, for example, Johnson made it to the Senate because of 200 primary votes reported late from Jim Wells County, Texas, domain of boss George Parr. Those who were there say casually both LBJ and his opponent probably stole votes, but Parr was mad at Johnson's opponent. In another chapter a score of people compare Johnson to Jack Kennedy—almost always to Johnson's advantage. The words used to describe LBJ are excessive: lunatic, cruel, ruthless. But Johnson himself was excessive, and this book almost measures up to its subject. (Putnam, $17.95)

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