Byline: PETER MCKAY
THE FAMILY: THE REAL STORY OF THE BUSH DYNASTY
by Kitty Kelley
(Bantam, [pounds sterling]20)
BUSHWORLD: ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK
by Maureen Dowd
(Viking, [pounds sterling]14.99)
HAVING written scandalous , best-selling volumes about Nancy Reagan, Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra - as well as one about the Queen and Prince Philip considered too lively to publish here - Kitty Kelley is the scarlet lady of American letters.
Her purpose in this 700-page doorstop of a book is to establish that the Bush family got where it is today - two Presidents, America's 41st and 43rd - by using the 'golden threads' linking the privileged few who studied at Yale and belonged to its Skull & Bones fraternity.
George W's late grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush, was so taken by the place that he never really left it, serving on its various bodies and visiting the school as often as five times a year.
Writing about his class's 50th reunion, Prescott said: 'Where I found myself in war or peace, in business or politics, in sports or social life, always the fact of Yale seemed to be there.
'I make this acknowledgement with a grateful heart.' Tall, handsome, immaculately dressed, he was a virtuoso string-puller, a talent he passed on to his son, ex-President George Herbert Walker Bush, and grandson, President George Walker Bush.
He was also a snob and a fantasist (claiming while a member of the Skull & Bones fraternity that he'd looted for its treasure trove the skull of Geronimo, the legendary Native American warrior), but he wasn't all bad.
On the whole, he behaved honourably as a Republican senator for Connecticut, refusing on one occasion to support a gasderegulation bill which would have helped George H W Bush make headway in the energy industry.
Kitty says of him: 'Unlike his son, George Herbert Walker Bush, and later his grandson, George Walker Bush, Prescott did not sell out on principle for political gain.' NOR was he a poor husband. The black onyx gravestone selected by his widow, Dorothy, was inscribed in 'never tarnish' bronze with the legend: 'Prescott S. Bush 1895-1972.
United States Senator 1952-1963. Leader, athlete, singer, soldier, banker, statesman, churchman, companion, friend, father, husband extraordinary.' On her own instructions, she lies alongside him under the simpler message: 'His adoring wife.' George H. W. Bush gets a tougher time from Kitty who - to her credit - isn't the kind of biographer who merely trashes the dead. He is portrayed as a weak man, frequently given to sobbing and whining, who feels guilty about bailing out of the shot-up bomber he was piloting in World War II, leaving two crewmen to die as it plunged into the sea off Japan. …