cover image American Hero

American Hero

Larry Beinhart. Pantheon Books, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-47276-6

Conspiracy theories of the George Bush presidency get a Hollywood twist in this satirical thriller purporting to tell the real story behind Operation Desert Storm. From his deathbed, controversial GOP chairman Lee Atwater conceives a wildly cynical plan to ensure Bush's re-election: if the President's campaign falters, Washington and Hollywood must orchestrate a war that will bolster his popular support. L.A. gumshoe Joe Broz has two jobs: movie star Magdalena Lazlo (soon to be his lover) wants him to find out why celebrated director John Beagle pulled out of a project she'd been working on; meanwhile his employer, mega-corporation Universal Security, has assigned him to the team protecting Beagle's mysterious new project. Which, of course, is the Atwater scheme, which Bush has entrusted to a major Hollywood producer. Beinhart's ( No One Rides for Free ) way-out plot is somewhat confused by a mix of first- and third-person narrative, and his extensive footnotes, sometimes dead-serious sourcing, sometimes saucily satirical, are a controversial touch that may throw some readers. But his imaginary conversations between Bush and Secretary of State Baker, his insights into the way Washington and Hollywood heavies operate and his constant offbeat asides, are often delightfully on target. And perhaps the best tribute one can pay the book is that, wacky as the thesis seems, it makes more sense than the actual war itself, as a lengthy epilogue reminds us. (Oct.)