THE COLUMNIST

Jeffrey Frank, Author . Simon & Schuster $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1253-3

Frank's debut is a curious blend of ribald, tongue-in-cheek narrative and political tell-all that winds up evoking an odd sense of nostalgia for a bygone era. Former President Bush remarks to pompous, amoral columnist Brandon Sladder that he ought to write a memoir—and so Sladder does. Now in his 60s, Sladder has left a trail of sources, lovers, wives and erstwhile colleagues in his wake while climbing to the top of the newspaper heap. His adventures start in his hometown of Buffalo, where he gets his father fired from his job as an insurance salesman by using confidential information from his father's files to break a big story, then capitalizes on his newspaper boss's indiscretion to blackmail his way up the ranks. When the paper is sold, Sladder moves to Washington, D.C., where, before writing for a political magazine and then a major daily, he uses a prostitute to get dirt on local elected officials. Later, it's on to the world of TV and roundtable reporter shows, but the unctuous Sladder's personal life is a mess—a merry-go-round of affairs, marriage for money and ill-advised alliances—with the constants being his relentless ambition and a remarkable ability to justify his own heinous behavior. Frank's smooth, fast-moving and often hilarious prose makes this a quick read, although much of the humor is dark, and the repulsive narrator makes the journey a bit thorny. The political material is enlightening and well delivered, as Sladder reveals the way things work within the Beltway in the postwar era. The result is a witty, racy and fast-moving novel that remains compelling despite its odious protagonist. Agent, Tina Bennett.(June)

Forecast:Frank's current job as a New Yorker senior editor will help generate buzz, as will speculation as to which (if any) real columnist his narrator might be based on.

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
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Paperback - 242 pages - 978-0-15-601198-3
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