Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1999, as George W. Bush's bid for the presidency was gaining momentum, free-lance writer J.H. Hatfield contracted with St. Martin's Press to write a biography of the Texas governor and son of former U.S. President George Bush. When St. Martin's published Hatfield's book, entitled Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President, it gained overnight media attention for its allegation (supported by unnamed sources later revealed to be insiders in the Bush campaign) that Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, but the Bush family exerted political pressure to have the incident wiped from the records. Alarmed by the controversy the book had generated as well as revelations about Hatfield's past which cast suspicions on his credibility (including the fact he was a convicted felon), St. Martin's buckled under pressure (some allegedly exerted by the Bush family and their legal team) and recalled the book. After Fortunate Son disappeared from shelves, Sander Hicks, a young political activist and punk rock singer, approached Hatfield with a proposal to reissue the book through his small leftist publishing company, Soft Skull Press. Horns and Halos is a documentary which examines the controversy over the book but places its main focus on two major players in this story -- Hicks, whose energetic idealism doesn't always mask his naïveté or his endless self-promotion, and Hatfield, a kind but troubled man whose ambition and desire for literary success, coupled with a desire to tell an important but controversial story, proves to be his undoing. Horns and Halos was named Best Documentary Feature at the 2002 New York Underground Film Festival.
book, censorship, controversy, libel, politician, presidential-candidate, publisher, publishing-house, writer