PANIC ON PAGE ONE by Linda Stewart


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Talk about obvious. The old Journal-American and the Mad Bomber. The New York Post and the Son of Sam, for cryin' out--Jesus!"" Yes, it's an obvious tale indeed, all about how single-minded news tycoon Harrison Crawford III buys the declining L.A. Tribune and resolves to increase circulation No Matter What--even if it means exploiting violent crime in the most garish manner imaginable. So when a psycho killer starts shooting young women in and around Brentwood, Crawford unleashes Breslin-esque columnist Vince Perrino--who makes the ""Dream Girl Killer"" (and the inadequacy of the cops in catching him) his constant theme in one yellow-journalistic assault after another. And, lo and behold, ""it's another Son of Sam,"" with Perrino writing open letters to the killer, trading info with sneaky and/or desperate cops, and newsstand sales soaring. Perrino even sees a personal fortune in his future when the masked killer visits him (""I'm God's hitman,"" he says) and later promises Perrino an exclusive stow. But, after the hard-working cops make one embarrassing false arrest, the real psycho is tracked clown and dies in a disco shoot-out finale--and so does Perrino's dream of a quickie windfall. Stewart adopts a properly cynical tone through most of this bald scenario, coloring it with some jazzy, flashy newsroom dialogue. But it's all too dearly a single-issue pamphlet/debate on a familiar First-Amendment dilemma, neither richly realistic (despite clumsy attempts at psychological insights into the publisher and the supermarket-clerk killer) nor exuberantly satiric; it should score neatly, however, in a forthcoming TV dramatization.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Delacorte