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The Washington novels keep trotting by, and Cheney--wife of Gerald Ford's White House Chief of Staff--joins the race with a genial but uncommanding also-ran; her D.C. brouhaha has less grit than Ehrlichman's The Whole Truth (p. 279), less zip than Davis' Ladies in Waiting (p. 278), and less thematic punch than McCarry's The Better Angels (p. 405). Cheney's thin premise: the confidential logs of President Zern Jenner's Oval Office appointments have been leaked to the press, and everyone is puzzled by Jenner's daily sessions with a relatively minor adviser. . . who also happens to be a psychiatrist! Could Jenner be secretly getting psychotherapy in the Oval Office?--a hot question, especially when it's soon revealed that Jenner did see a psychiatrist years ago and has since lied about that in a clumsy coverup. Some suspense is generated by the question of who leaked the logs (it turns out to be Jenner's ambitious, vicious VP), but the primary focus here is on the newspeople covering the story, Newstime reporter Rudy Dodman and his amorous assistant Sarah (who can't get Rudy to be unfaithful to his wife). They track down the president's psychiatric past and search for the White House adviser/psychiatrist (who has mysteriously disappeared), all the while wondering where the public's fight-to-know should stop. And this theme is intensified when Pres. Jenner confidentially reveals the secret of those daily sessions to the Newstime-ers: it involves the White House's tacit support of an incipient non-Communist coup in the Philippines. The reporters refuse to agree to Jenner's plea for silence, the story breaks, the coup fails, and the reporters feel guilty. Cheney's theme is thus made crystal clear, but that theme is an awfully tired one given no freshness here--and the story that carries it moves slowly and often clumsily, with each plot turn heavily foreshadowed and then wordily belabored. Cheney does write with grace, often even with charm--and some of the supporting characters, like a paranoid newslady, are vividly drawn. But, with so much Washingtonia to choose from, this decent debut hasn't the character, grab, or edge to dominate the D.C. skyline.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster