THE PRESS LORD by James Brady


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While not quite as actively offensive as Nielsen's Children (1978), this is again a nasty yet tediously episodic ramble through some trendy N.Y.C. territory--roman à clef-style. The ""press lord"" is newspaper tycoon Campbell Haig, who isn't exactly Rupert Murdoch but who (like Murdoch) buys a fading N.Y. tabloid from a Dorothy Schiff-ish grande dame and tries to breathe some crude life into it. (Not surprisingly, since Brady does a gossip-column for Murdoch's N.Y. Post, this quest is ultimately glorified: ""Seamy? Corny? Sensational? Sure it is. But, by God, it's real!"") Haig's prime ally in the overhaul: Pete Hamill-esque police reporter Scan Farrell, who becomes the new editor but argues with Haig all down the line--especially about union troubles. . . which climax when heiress-reporter Sissy Valentine is accidentally pushed into the printing press and loses an arm. And Haig eventually finds True Love with Caroline Kennedy-ish Alex Noyes, who gives up nymphomania and lover Farrell (who adores her) to marry Haig and stand by him through a series of misfortunes: Haig backs racial peace-maker Judah Wine for Mayor (against a hated Lindsay type and a despised Andy Stein type), but Wine is exposed as a homosexual; Haig is financially sabotaged by a Rockefeller-ish clan when he refuses to hush up a Nelson Rockefeller-ish death scene (Alex trades her sexual favors for her husband's continued ownership of the paper); and finally Haig is killed by a psycho, with Alex vowing to carry on the Haig tradition of what Farrell so rightly calls ""scumbag journalism."" (Farrell eventually pairs off with Sissy--who debases herself with drugs and gang-rape after the accident but then gets herself together.) Throughout, the characters are faceless, plastic composites; the handling of N.Y. politics and journalistic ethics is juvenile; the hatchet-job portraits (there's also one of a Barbara Walters type) are crude. But, like Neal Travis' similar Manhattan (1979), this slow-moving slush will draw a certain audience with its name-dropping, its restaurant-dropping, and its sleazy innuendos.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Delacorte