THE LEDGER by Joan Hurling


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Like Hurling's oilfield novel Boomers, this story of a small-town East Coast newspaper appeals primarily through its unromantic, realistic details--despite a tortured, melodramatic plot. The Ledger is owned by wealthy Robb Lindsay Compton--whose daughter Melissa (a rebellious, druggy runaway) has now agreed to try a job on the paper (rookie photographer). But the primary plot here involves county reporter Doug Palmer, who uncovers a scandal about conflict of interest: State Senator Martin Truckee, behind the new river bill, has bought up riverfront property through a Syndicate dummy organization. Great story--but publisher Robb takes Doug's notes, buries them in a drawer, removes the bisexual city editor (a creep in dark glasses whose last lover just committed suicide), and shoves financially needy Doug upstairs as young new city editor. Why does Robb sit on the story? Because he grew up with Truckee, their family fortunes intertwine, and the Senator knows that Robb's father committed suicide because of a crooked deal that would still be ripe after 30 years. Meanwhile, however, Texas reporter Mid Bollen shows up to take Doug's old county beat, is soon romancing society-features editor Janet Hunter, and himself falls into Doug's still-buried story. And when Melissa (now rehabilitated via her love for colleague Craig) understands her father's journalistic corruption, she kills herself out of shame--which convinces Robb to divest himself of his fortune, turn over the paper to wife Christina, and take up horse-ranching on a modest scale in Colorado (with his mistress of long standing). Far too many suicides per page--but Hurling is good on low-level newspaper ethics, with neatly sketched characters and convincingly gritty details galore.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1981
Publisher: Vanguard