A marvelously down-and-dirty chronicle of a presidential campaign that will make your eyes water, and some more famous eyes burn, in recognition. His rivals for the Democratic nomination--a decorated Vietnam vet, a dinosaur populist, a ``neo-Martian'' egghead, the on-again/off-again governor of New York--may have stronger credentials of one kind or another, but none of them has put together the package Gov. Jack Stanton has: a mastery of the issues, an uncanny ability to connect with the people he meets, and a grimly talented wife who shares his Energizer-bunny determination to keep on going. So Henry Burton, the rather unconvincingly half-black narrator, signs on as Stanton's deputy campaign manager and heads with him to New Hampshire. Like politics itself, the ensuing account makes no pretense of beguiling the reader, instead dumping out fictionalized names and situations like toxic waste. Stanton's ship of fools will be threatened in rapid succession by his youthful indiscretions at the 1968 Chicago convention; his tabloidal dalliance with his wife's hairdresser; discreet rumors of paternity from still another quarter; and a disgruntled driver alleging racial slurs he overheard (you won't believe what Stanton has to promise to shut him up). The picture of electoral politics that emerges has nothing to do with substantive issues--woe to the candidate who goes on record with any specific policy position--and everything to do with imagery, tactical advantages, not blinking first, and triage. This familiar picture is given new urgency by the momentum Stanton's campaign develops, even when it's being driven by the reflexive reactions of his clueless campaign manager or his psychopathically devoted chief of staff--or, more often, by no one, no one at all. Only the nobility that several key characters improbably evince in the closing pages breaks the illusion of authenticity. Mystery insider's view or not, this is a delicious gift for your friends who still believe that politics and politicians have the answers.