The Last Debate:: A Novel of Politics and Journalism

Jim Lehrer, Author, James Lehrer, Author Random House (NY) $23 (318p) ISBN 978-0-679-44159-5
Taking journalistic activism to unprecedented new heights, the media figures at the heart of this ingratiating post-Clinton political satire overtly change the course of a presidential election. At Williamsburg, Va., a few weeks before election day, Bible-quoting, media-savvy Republican David Donald Meredith will debate an all-but-defeated Democratic challenger. But newspaperman Michael J. Howley, the debate moderator, and the panel of questioning journalists so fear the consequences of Meredith's impending presidency that they conspire to ruin him by dispensing with the set debate format and ambushing Meredith with damning, unpublished documents in Howley's possession. After the debate, the panel members become controversial media superstars. The tale is told by magazine reporter Thomas Chapman, who notes that he has adopted the narrative form called ``Journalism as Novel.'' Lehrer (Fine Lines) writes suspensefully in the persona of Chapman, as the reporter traces leads and slowly unravels the mysteries of how this historic event came to pass. But several questions are never satisfactorily answered, most importantly: Why couldn't Howley simply report his allegations rather than scrap a long-held journalistic code? While the extensive media critique is not as penetrating as one might hope, Lehrer's experience and inside knowledge allow him to point out some thought-provoking contradictions in the contemporary news business, and his story is a page-turner. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
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