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by Reed Karaim

Pub Date: May 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04780-6
Publisher: Norton

A bilious fictional examination of the perverse relationship between a presidential candidate too good to be true and a newspaper reporter whose insecurities and uncanny nose for news bring doom and gloom to the campaign trail. Much of this humorless, darkly solemn first novel is evidently based on personal experience: Karaim, a Washington journalist for the Miami-based Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, covered the 1992 Democratic campaign and revels in the cynicism, monotony, lost luggage, and stale odors that envelope a cadre of journalists whose job it is eat, drink, and merrily cling to the candidate’s every word and gesture. Illinois Senator Thomas Hart —Saint Thomas— Crane is as good as they come: an intelligent, sincerely compassionate liberal Democrat who hasn’t forgotten the despair of his lower-class, coal-town upbringing. Terminally brooding journalist Cliff O’Connell, suffers from career burnout (at age 33) and the untimely departure of his lover, Robin Winters, now a strategist in the Crane machine. Though the two meet for some passionate tumbles, Karaim avoids the pot-boiling, bed-hopping high jinks of current political romans Ö clef and instead contrasts Crane’s dogged determination to be the hero the voting public wants with O’Connell’s relentless attempt to find himself in the subject he’s covering. When Crane tells voters that he never lies, the suspicious reporter pokes around the senator’s Illinois hometown and discovers a secret that could ruin him. Despite a teary plea from Robin, O’Connell prints the truth, then masochistically stays with the campaign as public condemnation of Crane slowly simmers into an angry backlash at the news media for revealing an aspect of his character that may not have been so bad after all. Can the electorate, with its need to idolize, and the media, with its need to slay the celebrities it creates, ever grasp the truth about political leaders? Though he ducks the answer with an inevitable—and much too convenient—tragic end, Karaim deserves credit for asking.