Ward S. Just, Author . Public Affairs $14 (112p) ISBN 978-1-58648-087-5

In a departure from his two previous novels—A Dangerous Friend and Echo House, boasting complexities of plot and large casts—Just turns out three concentrated character studies in this slim collection. The title piece, a one-act play, is the monologue of Lowell Limpett, a veteran reporter reflecting on his life and career. An old school type with a worn, noirish voice, the award-winning Limpett downs Scotch and talks about the "thrill of writing a clean lead." He has reason to reminisce: at 59, he is facing the prospect of being put out to pasture. While definitely a recognizable type, in Just's able hands Limpett manages to convey some of the buried heartache in a "life inside the news." The novella "Born in His Time" offers another interpretation of a man consumed by his profession. The inner workings of power are clearly delineated in this tale of a young lawyer who becomes disillusioned and then embittered in the heady political climate of 1960s Washington, D.C. Limpett and Born are flawed idealists well captured by Just's clean, ex-reporter's prose; the third piece in the volume, "Wasps," a short story concerning the unique balance of power in a Washington marriage, registers as flimsy and opaque in comparison and feels tacked on to bulk up the page count. The volume itself is a bit of a collector's item: those who prefer Just's more involved political novels will have met the character types before, and new readers may be puzzled by the lack of larger context. Dedicated fans, however, will be happy to snap up a quick and satisfying variation on the themes Just knows best. (Sept. 4)

Forecast:Sales of this minor work won't match Just's usual numbers; completists will bite, but browsers may pass.

Reviewed on: 08/27/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
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