Breaking News

Robert MacNeil, Author Nan A. Talese $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-385-42020-4
MacNeil's previous fictional efforts, Burden of Desire and The Voyage, both struck out in unexpected directions; this one, however, is just the kind of novel you would expect from the former PBS news anchor. The decline of journalistic standards in TV's news divisions and the upswing in bubble-headed tabloid magazine shows is a topical theme, and one to which MacNeil is ideally qualified to do justice. And it is clear there is a great deal of the author in upright anchorman Grant Munro, who came to his national prominence the hard way and resents the poseurs and actors who seem to be replacing his sturdy authority image. A particularly egregious example is glamorous but cold Ann Murrow (Barbara Walters, anyone?), whom Munro's network seems eager to bring aboard even as his contract negotiations stall and the 60-ish anchor wonders anxiously whether he should put in for a face lift. Meanwhile, a writer for Time is pursuing him for a cover profile as a symbol of how TV news is changing. It's a crowded canvas, and MacNeil paints it swiftly and skillfully; the very real questions of taste, integrity and the marketplace are explored thoroughly but never tediously, and the conversations of the powerful, usually over lunch at the Four Seasons or Lutece, have an authentic ring. A subplot involving a blackmail attempt over lubricious pictures taken of Murrow in her youth is unconvincing and, in the end, pointless. But in every other respect the book is that rare bird: a highly intelligent, readable fiction about issues that count. Munro may be a bit of a stick, but his heart is in the right place. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Mass Market Paperbound - 480 pages - 978-0-7704-2838-9
Hardcover - 371 pages - 978-0-385-25815-9
Paperback - 382 pages - 978-0-15-600763-4
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-307-80680-2
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