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Kanfer, uneven novelist (Fear Itself, The Eighth Sin) and Senior Editor at Time, now takes a stab at political farce in the Dr. Strangelove tradition--with UN corruption, TV-news, and apocalyptic militarism among the primary targets. Alec Lessing, ex-professor and veteran correspondent for an unnamed TV network, has just been assigned to cover the ""World Body""--a.k.a. WEB (or UN). Once there, however, Alec is appalled by the woozy ennui of the mostly-absent press corps. He's also disturbed by the secretive, spooky atmosphere, by an accumulating batch of enigmas. How did Lessing's creepy predecessor make enough money to retire in sheik-like splendor, with private bodyguards in his converted Soho loft? Why are there shootings in the WEB hallways--or frequent assassination attempts on the life of a Mideastern emir? And is America's UN Ambassador, pompous Lance Steelhead, somehow involved in the shameless weapon-selling that's going on just a few blocks from the WEB? In rough outline, then, this is a goofy mock-up of a conspiracy thriller--complete with a farfetched final twist that reveals hero Alec to have been duped by the real villain all along. Wisely, however, Kanfer doesn't lean very hard on this central plot, which is intrinsically heavy-handed (and just plain silly). Instead, as Alec does his sporadic sleuthing, the tissue-thin narrative is filled out with an eclectic grab-bag of spoofs, gags, and whimsies. Some of these are tired or strained: Alec mistakenly dates a transvestite and meets a prepubescent starlet; his mother is a feminist ethnologist who addresses the WEB on the macho of militarism (""Penis to the moon, phalluses waiting in submarines and silos""); a Third World association hails the joys of censorship. Elsewhere, the shtick can be very funny: a hip-talking emir decides to get good PR for Arabs by financing a TV sit-corn--to be written by the team of Huckabee & Trafe, straight from L.A. (Theemir dominates the story conference in pitch-perfect sit-corn-ese: ""We must then introduce a little jeopardy. Achmed doesn't meet a funny girl, he meets a girl funny, if you see what I mean."") And the resulting mixture--blunt satire, effort-fully wacky farce, hit-or-miss vaudeville--is jaunty enough to breeze by fairly painlessly, while a few scenes from Alec's private life (ex-wife, smart-kid daughter, magician Pop) provide some warm, likable grounding.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1985
Publisher: Norton