BYLINES by Bernard Weinraub

BYLINES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When the managing editor of the N.Y. Star commits suicide, rive editors churn with hunger for the new job vacancy--that's the ho-hum premise here. But Weinraub, a N.Y. Times correspondent, uses it as a rickety framework for an outlandish, contrived web of tacky, melodramatic subplots. . . which all come together in an unintentionally hilarious finale on the night of a threatened newspaper strike. The five rivals: national editor Sally, who's having an affair with publisher Skipper Steiner (and whose husband is having an affair with Skipper's son!); foreign editor Ward, with ulcers, an estranged wife in India, and a child critically ill with meningitis; deputy managing editor Maury; black D.C. bureau chief Hugh; and city editor Barry, who's into sado-sex--and will do anything to get that job. For instance, to win the support of Sen. David Fitzgerald, who has the Steiner family in his pocket (via adultery, etc.), Barry kills an exposÉ of corrupt Fitzgerald and sics a reporter on a fall guy (who'll commit suicide); he also sends reporter Linda to L.A. to dig up the dirty past of VP Tom Nelson (Fitzgerald's political rival)--an investigation which soon resembles one of the more convoluted West Coast hardboiled-shamus mysteries (porno-films murder, pedophilia, conspiracy, frame-up, incest, etc., etc.). Meanwhile, Hugh is trying to get his big story in print: an exclusive about the secret fatal illness of the President--while Ward is getting major Pentagon leaks. Meanwhile, too, publisher Skipper is having problems with money, unions, and his meddlesome mother Frieda--who has her secret (about Skipper's real paternity, of course) and temporarily rules the paper when Skipper balks at her takeover tactics. And finally, after Maury's heart attack, Barry's hospitalization (a vengeance attack by the fall guy's son, who's also an Agent Orange victim), a murder by Mrs. Fitzgerald, and much, much more, all those huge stories get printed. . . as Skipper regains command, the strike is averted, and everybody gets just deserts. First-novelist Weinraub does occasionally offer behind-the-scenes atmosphere--in a few scenes of editorial decision-making, in bits of dialogue. (""What are we playing? Columbia Journalism School? This is my story and you tell him to keep Ms fucking hands off."") But any overall authenticity is sabotaged by the luridly farfetched plotting, the tinny characterization, the gratuitous (""twisting her tongue over Ms throbbing cock"") sex. And while undemanding fans of busy melodrama may find this a serviceable entertainment (though lacking the zesty character-focus of prime pulp), those interested in provocative insider-views of the newsroom will want to look elsewhere--to, for instance, Mary Breasted's flawed but engaging debut (above).

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday