Let's cut to the chase: yes, J.H. Hatfield alleges that, in 1972, George W. Bush was arrested for possession of cocaine and, with the help of his father, got the charges erased in exchange for performing community service. Other than that, however, Fortunate Son is a standard quickie biography of the Texas governor and frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2000 presidential race--and useful primarily because few people outside of Texas (for that matter, few people within Texas) know much about Bush's history and political record. It's all about connections, Hatfield says: if he'd had a different father, Bush "could be just another Texan who failed in the oil business and now operates a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico." The bombshell doesn't even come until a short afterword, tacked onto the already completed manuscript at the last minute, complete with a "Deep Throat" within Bush's inner circle. (Said informant throws in an almost too perfectly worded attack on the governor's hypocrisy in vigorously fighting the war on drugs: "I've known George for several years and he has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior--except when it comes to himself.")
Bush has denied the allegations, however, and it seems that Hatfield has a few dark secrets in his past. Shortly after the publication of Fortunate Son, The Dallas Morning News reported that Hatfield was a paroled felon who had attempted to hire a hit man to kill his boss. The online magazine Salon went on to add that he may have lied about his history as a freelance journalist and invented a fictitious award for a previous book. Throw in the skepticism of many journalists at the afterword's heavy reliance on anonymous sources, and Hatfield's credibility is in serious jeopardy. For his part, the author maintains that the paroled felon is a different James H. Hatfield, born the same month and year and living in the same part of the country, and if public records say otherwise, he argues: "Doesn't it sound a little bit weird to you that all of a sudden, the guy that's accusing potentially the next president of the United States of having his record expunged, all of a sudden miraculously has a record himself in the state of Texas?" It should perhaps be noted that among Hatfield's previous books is an unauthorized guide to The X-Files.