A very dated fictional hagiography of the Kennedy era, written by novelist and journalist Rivers (Indecent Behavior, 1990; Slick Spins and Fractured Facts, 1996, etc.) in a tone so reverent that it could turn Arthur Schlesinger’s stomach. If you still believe that JFK represented the last best hope for American politics and society, this is the book for you. It describes—through allegorical characters worthy of an Eisenstein film—the coming together of people, forces, and ideas that resulted in the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and the assassination in Dallas. The story begins in 1963 with girl reporter Mary Springer’s introduction to big-league journalism at a White House press conference. Mary works for the Belvedere Blade in backwoods Maryland. Ordinarily, she’d be covering Rotary conventions and supermarket dedications, but on her first trip to the White House she manages to get a question answered by the President and goes on to become his confidante in a small way. An urban renewal project in Belvedere has become the object of black protests, you see, and Kennedy needs someone to tell him the truth about what’s happening. Springer and her photographer sidekick Jay Broderick cover the protests, which brings them into contact with Donald Johnson, a black creative-writing student at Georgetown who serves as one of the protest organizers. Johnson, highly educated and urbane, knows he can pass in white society but doesn’t feel comfortable putting his roots behind him. Springer (unhappily married as the result of a shotgun wedding) and Broderick (unhappily alcoholic) begin an unhappy affair that ends in tragedy. Johnson becomes more and more militant in his demand for justice—with tragic results. And JFK himself, whose interior monologues are interpolated throughout the story, comes to a tragic end in Dallas, in case you didn’t know. Sophomoric and hackneyed: a formulaic plot inhabited by formulaic characters.