cover image The Plan

The Plan

Stephen J. Cannell. William Morrow & Company, $23 (420pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14046-5

Veteran TV producer Cannell (The Rockford Files, The A-Team, The Commish, etc.) brings comic-book plotting and cellophane characterization to his first thriller, about the 1996 presidential election. The ``plan'' dates from the 1970s, when some farsighted mobsters decide gradually to buy controlling stakes in TV networks to give their favorite pols ``face time'' and eventually put their own man in the White House. It's a high-concept plot, worthy of a TV movie, but who'd want to play the hero? Ryan Bolt, an impossibly WASP-y and wimpy TV producer, is asked by short, fat and nasty Mickey Alo, his old prep-school pal, to film a documentary about a long-shot presidential hopeful. As Ryan susses out that Mickey is engaged in buying the presidency for the airhead governor of Rhode Island, he also falls hard for Lucinda Alo, Mickey's advanced degree-holding sister who, preposterously, doesn't know about the family business. The writing is by turns pretentious (``Dawn broke like a cheap wine cooler spreading an ugly red stain on the gray ocean''), silly (``Ryan knew where he was headed but had no inkling where he was going'') and bafflingly vulgar (``A shot of adrenaline hit Ryan's heart like cold piss''). As Ryan is drawn deeper into the mobby machinations of Mickey, and as the fate of the Republic comes to rest on his modest shoulders, Cannell hits every lurid and gory button possible in this cartoonly tale. (June)