Purple Dots

Jim Lehrer, Author, James Lehrer, Author Random House (NY) $23.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-679-45237-9
PBS newsman and veteran novelist Lehrer (White Widow) neatly interweaves ruthlessness, hypocrisy and CIA intrigue in this disarming political thriller. Ex-CIA operative Charlie Henderson comes out of retirement to clear the name of his friend and fellow spy Josh Bennett, whose nomination for CIA chief has Republican Senator Marty Madigan frantically digging for dirt. It seems Madigan is following orders from Senator Lank Simmons of New Mexico, who is being blackmailed, in turn, by a Texas senator who has New Mexico's water supply under his thumb and happens to back a certain undesirable candidate for the Supreme Court. Lehrer gains satirical mileage by narrating the same events from the viewpoints of both Charlie and Marty. Although Marty comes off as a slick, aggressive opportunist in Charlie's version, he earns the reader's sympathy in his own account as a young, ambitious politician caught in a complicated power struggle between his self-interested superiors. As the opponents wrestle their way toward a gratifying resolution, Lehrer deftly exposes duplicity and pettiness on both sides through smart (if occasionally overblown) dialogue that spoofs their simultaneous lack of communication and merciless competition for powers great and small (such as the ""purple dots"" on license plates, which prevent car towing in Washington). Lehrer maintains admirable objectivity: no character is ultimately sympathetic or completely tarred and feathered by the end of this pointed portrait of Capitol Hill. (Oct.) FYI: In October, Doubleday will publish Breaking News, the third novel by Lehrer's longtime (and now former) collaborator on The News Hour, Robert MacNeil.
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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