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Book Review: The White House’s Unruly Neighborhood

How does a former White House speech writer and joke scribe for Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” spend his free time?

(Photo: Amazon website)

By Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor

Alexandria, VA – How does a former White House speech writer and joke scribe for Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” spend his free time? Edward Moser will tell you that he strolls the notable neighborhoods of the D.C. Metro area, absorbing all things history. Thus setting the foundation for this author’s newest work which uniquely chronicles one of the most iconic neighborhoods of our capital city.

Moser’s twelfth book centers on Lafayette Square. He uses short story format, 45 short stories in all, to lead readers into and around the neighborhood. Every story is based on actual events and facts. Readers discover scandal, murder, partisan discourse, and outlandish personalities are not new to ZIP code 20500.

This is an easy read despite the enormity of information and historical facts. It turns out that the White House’s neighborhood is not the best for peace and quiet. Wild politics and craven misbehaviors have long lived there. The most likely source for such behavior stems from the neighborhood’s high concentration of power and wealth in overly ambitious men and women, each willing to do whatever it takes to get a larger piece of the American pie.

Bad deeds have tainted the neighborhood since John Adams took the oath of office in 1797 and established residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But not all the tales are woven from evil. One of my favorite discoveries is that the Clintons did not throw the wildest inauguration party. That honor goes to the first populist president, Andrew Jackson.

Typical of Jackson’s populist theme, he opened the White House to all. The gala quickly overrun with a “mob of rabble and guests more suitably fit for a penitentiary.” After well-wishers nearly him crushed to death, the frail Old Hickory was whisked away to the safety of the National Hotel, a “Gadsby establishment.” The party raged on well into the next morning. To avoid further damage to the mansion, staff used tubs of more refreshments to lure most of drunken throng out onto the lawn.

Moser, who operates the Layfette Square Tour of Scandal, takes readers on a quick-paced joy ride. From the front door of the White House and through the streets and back alleys, Moser entices with true stories of assassinations, duels, escaped slaves, heroes, salacious affairs, and nasty double crosses. Not much of what he tells readers is mentioned in history books. Hidden dramas buried within the walls of the homes, taverns, and parks of Lafayette Square come alive. And his readers gain a ground level appreciation for this historic area.

Author Edward Moser (Photo: Ed Moser)

Ed lives in Alexandria and has started work on more neighborhood tours, including tackling Capitol Hill and Alexandria. The White House’s Unruly Neighborhood is informative, provocative, and fun. It’s a reminder that D.C. is a treasure trove of often closely guarded history. This comprehensive yet highly readable book is a terrific look into the locale’s myriad intrigues and bloody secrets. An absolute must read for anyone interested in crime, political manipulation, history, or the almost forgotten art of short story writing. Zebra rating —– 5 Stripes

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