Walter Winchell

Michael Herr, Author
Michael Herr, Author Alfred A. Knopf $18.95 (157p) ISBN 978-0-394-58372-3
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
This curious novel by the author of the much-acclaimed Dispatches attempts to render the life of fabled American journalist and ideologue Walter Winchell in a style suggestive of Winchell's very own and with a flavor of his times. Most of the action takes place in nightclubs, with the irascible Winchell capriciously hoisting or dashing the hopes of would-be stars. The pacing is choppy and impatient, as if deliberation were an indulgence. Events large and small are gleaned merely for the sensational, much like the newsreels Winchell narrated with his trademark bravado. The story of Winchell's impoverished beginnings and celebrated rise is told just as Winchell might have told it--with unctuous regard for those with power and a mixture of schmaltz and repulsion toward the disenfranchised. In his preface, Herr admits that, ``for reasons both practical and temperamental,'' the book, ``which began life as a screenplay,'' is written in prose; its would-be producers, he goes on, thought it ``something less than a screenplay.'' Readers of fiction are likely to find it something less than a novel. 50,000 first printing. (May)
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