cover image Men in Black

Men in Black

Scott Spencer. Alfred A. Knopf, $23 (321pp) ISBN 978-0-679-43452-8

Family politics, marital discord, personal integrity, extraterrestrials, the publishing game and the vagaries of the American public find wise and witty treatment in this perceptive, highly readable novel from the author of Endless Love and Waking the Dead. Novelist Sam Holland has moved with his wife and two children to tiny Leyden, N.J., because his writing--despite favorable notices--can no longer pay the rent in Manhattan. To make ends meet, Sam has taken to penning pseudonymous volumes of popular nonfiction--An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Pro Football, Crystal Death (about the hazards of table salt) and, most recently, Visitors from Above, a UFO primer. Now, as his family fabric is seriously fraying (he's at constant battle with his wife, and his adolescent son runs away from home and into serious trouble), and as he is just beginning to realize how he has failed them and others, his UFO book is about to make him rich. Wrenching ironies abound, along with some keen insights into the subtleties of husband-wife and parent-child relationships. There are some awkward shifts between first- and third-person narration, but Spencer's prose is engaging, his characters are etched with tender intensity and the story proves compelling and hard to forget. (Apr.)