cover image Fan Mail

Fan Mail

Ronald Munson. Dutton Books, $20 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93624-4

Told entirely through faxes, phone conversations, letters, police memos, E-mail and taped conversations, this wickedly entertaining thriller brings the epistolary novel into the electronic age with a jolt. Joan Carpenter, assertive, high-strung TV news anchor in St. Louis, starts receiving creepy, literate, sexually suggestive crank letters from a nut who calls himself ``The Watcher.'' When Joan, at the insistence of her ratings-obsessed boss Charlie Fishwater, opens a package sent by The Watcher on the air, the show's ratings skyrocket and the police suspect Joan of being an accomplice. As The Watcher's stunts turn deadly, suspicion falls on Joan's gardener, her surgeon, her boyfriend, even Fishwater. Munson ( Nothing Human ) portrays these voices perfectly as he does such others as Joan's psychiatrist sister, her supportive agent and her old-fashioned mom. Interwoven throughout is biting commentary on tabloid television, on the way TV shapes American reality and on the loss of face-to-face contact in our impersonal electronic age, but mostly this is a fast-paced spellbinder that will keep readers turning the pages into the wee hours. BOMC alternate. (Aug.)