CONTEMPORARY HISTORICAL NOVEL
a fast-paced fictionalized account of a journalist's search for
Afternoon of March 30 reveals a view of American politics that is as
illuminating as it is frightening. Focusing on the events surrounding
John Hinckley Jr.'s attempt to assassinate President Reagan,
this well-researched book describes how government agencies shut
off access to any information suggesting a conspiracy at high
levels while feeding misinformation to the media.
Nathaniel Blumberg convincingly demonstrates that
this one incident epitomizes how our government serves the mighty
and uses the trumped-up excuse of national security to trample
our freedoms. Truth rings in every documented observation. To
Afternoon of March 30
is to understand the powerful forces controlling if not destroying
Ralph W. McGehee,
author of Deadly Deceits:
My 25 Years in the CIA
- Blumberg takes life very seriously, but he also
gets a monumental charge out of living it, contemplating it and
commenting on it. His salty observations about practically everythingpeople,
government, business, sports, politics, money, marriage, American
culture and society in generalare here for the taking or
One reviewer has accused Blumberg of writing
bad prose as he explores the national and local press through
his chosen vehicle, the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt
on President Ronald Reagan. Lapses, maybe, but The
Afternoon of March 30
is chockful of nuggets that will cause many readers to feel the
gut-wrenchings of the characters and simultaneously see themselves
and their frustrations.
There's both wheat and chaff in this book,
but Blumberg has done
sufficient winnowing to produce a bumper crop of the former.
critics who seek to sharpen their skills would do well to give
of March 30
in the Missoulian
The Afternoon of March 30, "a contemporary historical novel," is
on one level about the attempted assassination of President Reagan
by John W. Hinckley, Jr. On another level, this very complex
book is about the American press and Blumberg's vision of what
the American press should be. The core of the book is here. Blumberg
has written, in the form of a novel, a polemic on the present
state of the press. The novel form works well here. Rapidly paced,
it says a lot about the press while using, most expertly, the
facets of the novelfine dialogue, character development,
deep tension, action and sexual intimacy.
I am not going to describe this provocative
and disturbing book by the usual forms of compression. Read it
free of preformed opinions. It's not dull. It goes like wildfire.
In many ways it is remarkable. The Hinckley case is the vehicle;
the press, its role and its suppression are at issue.
in Montana Magazine
His friends (I am privileged to be among them) have watched with
intrigue and, at times, astonishment as Blumbergmeticulous
journalist, riveting lecturer, demanding media critic and admired
university professorpieced together what he calls the "strange
coincidences" surrounding the assassination attempt.
There is much more to the Hinckley assassination
story: the confinement of Hinckley in a prison designed for behavior
modification, the sealing from the public of Hinckley's prison
writings in which he says he was part of a conspiracy, the inexcusable
delay in the trial (nearly 13 months after the assassination
attempt), the insanity of the trial itself, the judge's ruling
that sealed evidence obtained after Hinckley's arrest couldn't
be presented (the evidence remains hidden from the public to
Blumberg's book cries out for answers
to the haunting questions it has raised.
Rick Seifert in the Longview
(Washington) Daily News
Blumberg has made a career out of analyzing
the media, and has often been less than delighted with what he
has found. But coverage of the Reagan assassination attempt seemed
to him to represent a new low. His careful survey of the news
coverage pays off, with readers being treated to a rare inside
look at the national media.
Michael Crater in the Helena (Montana) Independent Record
Though more serious in tone, The Afternoon of March 30 holds the reader's interest
as a Robert Ludlum or Ken Follett thriller would.
Gapay in the San Jose
(California) Mercury News
The Afternoon of March 30 has a new chance at
a spotlight now that W is in the White House. It was serendipity
that I found it; I happened to be browsing in Powell's one evening
and there it was. I'd missed it the first time. Read the whole
thing in a couple sittings. Disturbing. Stunning.
Baker, reporter, Vancouver, Washington, Columbian, in
to the author in 2001
You have written a pretty bad novel but
a damn forceful and persuasive book. Some of your positions strike
me as extreme, but the general thrust of your work is right and
(Bud) Guthrie, Jr., Winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction,
in a note to the author in 1984
have read The
Afternoon of March 30
with fascination. I really could not put it down, once I had
If you ever come to London and why
should you, if you live in Montana, which I understand from friends
of mine is one of the special placesthen do let me know.
Lessing, winner of both
the 2001 David Cohen British Literature Prize and Spain's Asturias
Prize for Literatureand still denied the richly deserved
Nobel Prize for Literaturein a note to the author in 1984.
- TO ORDER:
This original First Edition book is hardbound, 377 pages,
published in 1984.
To order by e-mail, send a message that includes
your regular mailing address to
AFTERNOON OF MARCH 30,
is the story of a Montana newspaperman who is at first puzzled,
then curious, then finally outraged by what the national news
media never told the American people about the attempt of John
W. Hinckley Jr. to assassinate the president of the United States.
It is a real-life mystery story, a detective
story, a newspaper story, a spy story and more than one love
story. It is a polemic that explores the strange "coincidences,"
curious "happenstances," major discrepancies, critical
omissions and possible covert disinformation activities in the
wake of a bullet that came within an inch of changing the course
of history. It is a story of a journalist's fierce devotion to
the American ideals of freedom and justice. It is a different
kind of roman à clef.
Even more dangerous for the future of
our country than a conspiracy to assassinate a president is a
conspiracy to manipulate and control what the American people
are told by the national news media. This bookamong much
elseexamines the official cover-up of vital information
that left scores of unanswered questions surrounding the event
of the afternoon of March 30, 1981. From the book, page 6:
When it happened it was beyond
the grotesque. For seconds Jonathan Blakely was stunned. John
Chancellor, eyebrows raised, informed the viewers of NBC Nightly
News that the brother of the man who tried to kill the president
was acquainted with the son of the man who would have become
president if the attack had been successful. As a matter of fact,
Chancellor said in a bewildered tone, Scott Hinckley and Neil
Bush had been scheduled to have dinner together at the home of
the vice president's son the very next night. And, of course,
the engagement had been canceled. . .
a peculiar thing happened: The story vanished. To this day, it
has never been reported in the New York Times,
Washington Post or many other metropolitan newspapers,
never again mentioned by any of the television news networks,
and never noted in news magazines except for a brief mention
in Newsweek, which lumped it with two ludicrous
conspiracy scenarios as if the Bush-Hinckley connection didn't
deserve some sort of explanation. [See Newsweek SIDEBAR
But many other significant facts concerning
the Bush and Hinckley families have remained unexplored and unexplained,
in addition to other matters related to the assassination attempt
detailed in this book. For examples:
- Neil Bush, a landman for Amoco
Oil, told Denver reporters he had met Scott Hinckley at a surprise
party at the Bush home January 23, 1981, which was approximately
three weeks after the U.S. Department of Energy had begun what
was termed a "routine audit" of the books of the Vanderbilt
Energy Corporation, the Hinckley oil company. In an incredible
coincidence, on the morning of March 30, three representatives
of the U.S. Department of Energy told Scott Hinckley, Vanderbilt's
vice president of operations, that auditors had uncovered evidence
of pricing violations on crude oil sold by the company from 1977
through 1980. The auditors announced that the federal government
was considering a penalty of two million dollars. Scott Hinckley
reportedly requested "several hours to come up with an explanation"
of the serious overcharges. The meeting ended a little more than
an hour before John Hinckly Jr. shot President Reagan.
- Although John Hinckley Sr. was
characterized repeatedly by the national news media as "a
strong supporter of President Reagan," no record has been
found of contributions to Reagan. To the contrary, in addition
to money given to Bush, a fellow Texas oilman, as far back as
1970, the senior Hinckley raised funds for Bush's unsuccessful
campaign to wrest the nomination from Reagan. Furthermore, he
and Scott Hinckley separately contributed to John Connally in
late 1979 when Connally was leading the campaign to stop Reagan
from gaining the 1980 presidential nomination. The Bush and Hinckley
families, according to one newspaper, "maintained social
ties." The deeply troubled Hinckley oil company obviously
would fare better under a Bush presidency than it would under
- Available evidence at the time
made clear many other connections between the Bush and Hinckley
families. Reported "coincidences" involving the Hinckleys
and the family of H.L. Hunt also remained unexplored. Instead,
the official government line, accepted without challenge by the
media, was that the assassination attempt was nothing more than
the senseless act of a deranged drifter who "did it to impress
Jodie Foster." That enshrined historical "truth"
is thoroughly examined in this book.
- To understand how that came
to pass, it is essential to examine the travesty of the trial
of John W. Hinckley, presided over by Judge Barrington D. Parker.
Parker, a Republican appointed to the federal bench by President
Richard Nixon, was a man with an established reputation for politically
partisan decisions and notable reversals on appeal. For one of
many examples, when Edwin Reinecke, then the lieutenant governor
of California under Governor Reagan, was convicted of lying to
the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Parker could have imposed
a five-year jail sentence and a $2,000 fine, but chose to give
Reinecke an 18-month suspended sentence and one month of unsupervised
probation. More importantly, not for nothing did Parker achieve
notoriety as "the CIA's judge." Orlando Letelier, an
influential opponent of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, was
assassinated in 1976 in broad daylight on a street in our national
capital. The judge at the trial was Barrington Parker. The Director
of Central Intelligence was George Bush, father of George W.
Bush. Judge Parker refused to allow the defense to present any
testimony concerning the widely suspected involvement of the
CIA. Parker came through again in 1977 when a former director
of the CIA, Richard Helms, pleaded no contest to two charges
of lying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he testified
that the CIA had not covertly supplied money to opponents of
Salvadore Allende in a secret effort to block his election as
president of Chile. Judge Parker, before passing sentence, told
Helms that "if public officials embark deliberately on a
course to disobey and ignore the laws of our land because of
some misguided and ill- conceived notion and belief that there
are earlier commitments and considerations which they must first
observe, the future of this country is in jeopardy." Judge
Parker then chose to jeopardize the future of this country by
giving Helms a suspended two-year sentence and a $2,000 fine.
- Shortly before this decision,
the lawyer for Helms, Edward Bennett Williams, pleaded with Judge
Parker for a lenient sentence for his client because Helms "would
bear the scar of conviction for the rest of his life." After
Parker accommodated him, Williams told reporters outside the
courtroom that Helms would "wear this conviction like a
badge of honor." That night more than 400 former and perhaps
current CIA employees gathered at a country club outside Washington,
gave Helms a standing ovation, put two wastebaskets atop a piano
and quickly contributed more than enough to pay his fine. On
that night of November 4, 1977, a faction within the Central
Intelligence Agency openly declared war on the elected and legitimate
government of the United States.
- And how did Barrington Parker
become the judge for Hinckley's trial? "In another sharp
diversion from regular courthouse procedure," as the Washington
Post flatly reported, Parker's name was secretly selected
from a stack of cards that bore the names of 14 federal judges
who were available. "That selection process normally is
carried out by a court clerk," the Post continued,
but this time the selection was made in the private chambers
of the senior judge. Thus was the presiding judge of the Hinckley
trial selected in a Star Chamber session, leading to a national
outcry at the decision, summed up by what one editorial writer
called "one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the
- The shooting on the afternoon
of March 30 was voted the "top headline story of 1981"
by newspaper and broadcast editors. It is always listed as one
of the biggest stories of the decade. As such, readers of this
book will discover scores of facts never reported or underplayed
in the national news media.Remember, this book was published
in large part as a warning of the dangers posed by the Bush family
which, if nothing else, was prophetic.
from an interview by Theresa Walla, in United Press International
article, March 9, 1985
Journalism professor Nathaniel Blumberg was
so disturbed about the investigation into the attempted assassination
of President Reagan that he turned his suspicions into a 377-page
In The Afternoon of March 30, Blumberg blends fact and fiction in looking at
the unreported "connections" between Hinckley's family
and that of Vice President George Bush, the man who came within
a heartbeat of the presidency of the United States.
"What I'm really after is
the case to be officially reopened," said the Rhodes scholar
and former dean of the University of Montana journalism school.
"If they can answer all the questions satisfactorily, I'll
be delighted," he said in an interview. "In truth,
I don't think all the questions can be answered without opening
up a whole new can of worms."
Blumberg's unease is now focused on the
indifference shown to what he calls "the story behind the
story." Bush, he said, has questions to answer in connection
with the attempt. So do the FBI and the judge who presided over
Hinckley's trial, according to Blumberg.
"I'm not saying there was a conspiracy
to assassinate Reagan," Blumberg emphasized. "I'm saying
there was a conspiracy to keep significant information from the
public that it has a right to know."
Blumberg asks his readers to consider
his contentions that journalists were fed a barely believable
story full of inconsistencies. A long-time media critic, he decided
the example warranted more than a critique of press performance
in a crisis. Such efforts, he said, usually "go out there
and die." Instead, he chose to weave his questions into
a novel so it would reach a broader audience and allow him to
probe problems in society and corruption in government, as well
as maladies of the U.S. press.
The book chronicles the adventures of
a fictitious Montana newsman who follows the information trail
deserted by the national media. His documentation is put in the
form of an article the fictitious hero is writing.
Blumberg published the book on his own
Wood FIRE Ashes Press to retain total control over the quality.
"Have you ever heard an author say
what a great job his publisher did with a book?" he asks.
But, without a commercial advertising campaign, he's had to market
the book in an "organic, straightforward fashion."
Blumberg says he mails out several copies
of the novel each week and expects it to "stay alive as
long as people continue to care about justice."
Analysis: Note that Reporter Walla, a former student of mine,
was encouraged by Helena UPI to interview me for this story.
She wrote a short article that was sent to the Seattle UPI Bureau,
which promptly asked for a longer, more detailed piece. The expanded
article was sent by the Seattle Bureau to national UPI, where
it was killed.