NADER: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon

Justin Martin, Author . Perseus/Merloyd Lawrence $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0563-2

After the success of his Alan Greenspan biography, Martin tackles another subject with tremendous influence on American economics and politics and a largely unknown private life, but this attempt to find the man behind the public figure meets with limited success. This life of the 68-year-old Ralph Nader lingers over his already well-known public advocacy successes, like the fight for auto safety, then quickly skims over the period from 1975 to 2000, eager to get to the behind-the-scenes story of his controversial presidential campaign. The three chapters on the race provide solid chronology, but the larger questions remain open to speculation. Forced to address whether Nader cost Gore the election, the author merely ventures that "the answer lies somewhere near the intersection of political perceptions and first-grade math." He does show, however, how Nader's tenacious, unapologetic campaigning style was likely shaped by his childhood experience attending town meetings in Winsted, Conn., where his immigrant father was famously reluctant to let go of a debate. Martin has interviewed Nader and found plenty of people willing to talk about him, including former Princeton classmates and several "Nader's Raiders" from the 1970s, but never quite pierces the veil of mystery with which his subject has surrounded himself. What the story lacks in personal detail, however, it makes up in historical perspective, clarifying Nader's status as one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. Agent, Lisa Swayne. (Nov.)

Forecast:Those who see Nader as an icon will undoubtedly seek this out; even his enemies might check it, looking for clues to what makes him tick, but they may be disappointed.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7382-0857-2
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