The Watergate

Joseph Rodota’s THE WATERGATE, to be published in 2018 by William Morrow, tells the story of this iconic building and its most famous residents over the span of more than 50 years. The Watergate was the first mixed-use development in Washington. It called itself “a city within a city” and changed the face of urban living by offering residents a wide array of amenities -- from a barber shop and beauty salon to a wine shop and grocery store, all on the premises. And it offered an unprecedented level of security – 24 cameras in one building alone. But after the break-in that took place in the early hours of June 17, 1972, the Watergate – and American politics – would never be the same.


Following a 1948 crime spree by the “Red Light Bandit” that paralyzed Los Angeles with fear, police arrested Caryl Chessman and charged him with abducting and raping two women. Chessman was convicted of kidnapping with bodily harm, a capital offense at the time, and sent to San Quentin Prison to await his turn in the gas chamber.

But Chessman fought for his life. From his cell on Death Row, he wrote four books – three of which were smuggled out of prison – and became an international celebrity. Proceeds from his writings fueled 12 years of legal challenges in state and federal courts. But by May 1960, Chessman appeared to be out of options. Only one man could save him: Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, the governor of California.

CHESSMAN, a new play by Joseph Rodota, tells the story of Chessman’s final months on Death Row and the difficult decisions facing Brown – including whether to grant clemency to the most famous Death Row prisoner in the world.