BIG UGLY by William F. Weld


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Candide visits the cannibals as the former Massachusetts governor continues the political misadventures of his prosecutor-turned-politician(Mackerel By Moonlight, 1998). Did he blink or just forget to nod? Twitchy trouble, perverse power plays, and not-quite-righteous indignation force freshman Democratic US Senator Terry Mullally to answer life’s big questions during his first six months in Congress. Among them: Is politics an expression of masculine or feminine biology? And is it okay to be rich? Shouting, yes, it’s feminine to the first is unmarried Republican Vice President Martha Holloway (a Libby Dole with claws), who’s pondering a presidential campaign that will require Mullally’s covert assistance. Also in agreement is Mullally’s brainy and beautiful bride Emma, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology who likens Beltway bluster to the territorial screeches of sex-crazed chimpanzees. On the ethics of greed, Texas Senator Harlan (“Happy”) Gilliam, a possible Democratic presidential candidate, is eager to advise: “I live for fund-raising . . . come six o’clock, bye-bye girl scouts, hello smoked salmon and bubbly.” A compulsive womanizer, Gilliam, who’s also head of the Senate Agricultural Committee, shows Mullally how to woo big bucks from leggy lobbyists when the latter misses a cue and sells his soul for a few hundred thousand. Offering some respite, and another invitation to support him for a presidential run, is Anson Vivian, a stoic, honorable senator from the West Virginia mountain town of Big Ugly. As head of the Judicial Committee, Vivian has given Mullally the option of appointing an independent prosecutor to poke into the improprieties of President Myron Brinker’s blatantly corrupt Attorney General (and presidential campaign manager) Harry Frobisch. Before Mullally can decide which one among these various competitors to help, he finds a skeleton in his own closet that’s beginning to rattle a little too loudly. Less a roman Ö clef than a sly, upbeat insider’s satire of politics as an insidious poker game—one in which lies, guile, and looking good for the camera can actually put the best person in the White House.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85347-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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