After Annie

After Annie

by Michael Tucker

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An irresistible tale about love and the theater, After Annie is an astonishing first novel. Herbie Aaron is one half of a celebrity marriage.
He and Annie have been famous, nobodies, and mingled with the rich and crazy. Through it all, they've been passionate lovers and fast friends. But when Annie dies of cancer, Herbie is lost.
If you think this is going to


An irresistible tale about love and the theater, After Annie is an astonishing first novel. Herbie Aaron is one half of a celebrity marriage.
He and Annie have been famous, nobodies, and mingled with the rich and crazy. Through it all, they've been passionate lovers and fast friends. But when Annie dies of cancer, Herbie is lost.
If you think this is going to be a tragic tale about grief, think again. Herbie is too cantankerous, sly, and charming to keel over. Enter Olive, a beautiful bartender who just might be a great actress; Candy, Herbie and Annie's neurotic daughter; and a woman named Billy, the tough-talking golf pro who teaches Herbie more about his psyche than about his lousy swing.
After Annie is a hilarious and beautifully rendered novel about a man off the rails, battling through the middle-aged wilderness days he hoped never to face alone. It is a book that examines the inevitable passing of time with clarity and wry brilliance, and a story of surprising power.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Best known for his role on L.A. Law as Stuart Markowitz and his non-fiction, Tucker (Family Meals) draws from his professional experience for a creditable fiction debut. After the death of his wife from breast cancer, veteran TV actor Herbie Aaron turns to alcohol and hash to dampen his grief; reviving his old golf passion in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he spends more time boozing and doping than taking refresher courses from lesbian golf pro Billy Stiles. Meanwhile, his “protégé” Olive, starring in a regional theater production of Uncle Vanya, seeks out Herbie’s professional thespian advice and reassurances. A complicated relationship soon develops between the ambitious Olive and curmudgeonly Herbie (who first hit on Olive while visiting his dying wife). Herbie seems wary to commit though he freely discusses his problems with Billy on the links. The rich depiction of the inner workings of the acting profession adds an appealing dimension to the breezy narrative. Crusty widower Herbie’s off-putting attitude is mostly balanced by Olive (who perhaps demonstrates more talent than her mentor) and her earnest efforts to succeed on the stage. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Mar.)

"AFTER ANNIE is a hilarious and beautifully rendered novel about a man off the rails, battling through the middle-aged wilderness days he hoped never to face alone."

Shelf Awareness

"An engaging first novel about an actor a

From the Publisher
"A lightweight novel that's paradoxically both earthy and frothy." — Kirkus Reviews

"Michael Tucker draws from his professional experience for a credible fiction debut . . . The rich depiction of the inner workings of the acting profession adds an appealing dimension to the breezy narrative." — Publishers Weekly

"A Funny, bittersweet read." — New York Post

"A darkly comic first novel by a veteran LA Law actor, After Annie is a brilliant entre to the mind of a man who has always been surrounded by women but doesn't quite know how to exist without the one he's always counted on . . . With an acerbic, sarcastic bite and a depth of honesty rare in most first novels, After Annie is a refreshing, heartwarming, and introspective read." — Booklist

"AFTER ANNIE is a hilarious and beautifully rendered novel about a man off the rails, battling through the middle-aged wilderness days he hoped never to face alone." —

"An engaging first novel about an actor at the end of his career and another at the beginning of hers." — Shelf Awareness

Kirkus Reviews
Actor Tucker, best known for his work on L.A. Law, writes his first novel--about an actor who loses his beloved wife to cancer, though hints of a May-December romance are in the wings. Herbie Aaron and his wife Annie have been a celebrity couple over many long years, but Annie is now facing her final curtain. Herbie deals with this in part by hitting the bars pretty hard, and in one he notices Olive, a bartender who's a knockout but who's also young enough to be his daughter. He tells Annie about Olive, and Annie insists on meeting her. When the inevitable happens and Annie dies, Herbie gets in touch with his agent to help Olive land a job--somewhat implausibly--as an actress, and despite the prodigious unemployment rate among professional actors, Olive lands a job in Uncle Vanya, albeit in Rochester rather than on Broadway. Meanwhile, Herbie copes by heading to South Carolina to play some golf and reminisce about the good times he had with Annie. While trying to master the intricacies of a game he doesn't even like, he hires Billy (a woman) to improve his skill on the links, but because Billy is a lesbian, Herbie wisely senses the unlikelihood of romance from that quarter, though Billy's sister Roxanne is another story. Every evening, however, he gets a phone call from Olive, who gives progress reports on her rehearsals with a hot-shot young director and a lead actor who seems to be having psychotic episodes--or is he merely an actor who pretends to have psychotic episodes to juice up his role as Vanya? By the end we're led to believe that despite his loyalty to Annie, Herbie might in fact find a life with Olive. A lightweight novel that's paradoxically both earthy and frothy.

Product Details

The Overlook Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Free Radicals



Copyright © 2011 Michael Brooks
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59020-735-2


It is 5.15 pm on 23 March 2003. In a brightly lit auditorium in Davis, California, Harvard cosmologist Lisa Randall is trying to give a talk about her research. The audience contains some of the greatest scientific minds on the planet, even some Nobel laureates, but no one is paying Randall any attention. Even she is having trouble concentrating. Her eyes flick repeatedly from her notes to the front row of the audience. There, on the far right of the auditorium, Stephen Hawking is being given his tea-time soup. It's quite a sight.

Earlier in the day Hawking gave a sparkling talk, crammed with witty asides and acerbic commentaries on the state of science. It was delivered via his speech synthesiser, with that hallmark monotony; Hawking is paralysed by motor neuron disease and simply cannot speak for himself. Eating is similarly problematic.

His nurses are trying their best to avoid a spectacle, but it is difficult. The spoon won't quite go into his mouth, and the soup dribbles down his chin. It is unquestionably distracting: not one of these fine minds has the capacity to ignore the goings-on in the front row and focus exclusively on Randall's talk. Discomfiting as this scenario is, there is an upside. Here, in this strange moment of their lofty, cerebral lives, it has become clear, just for a moment, that these scientists are very human beings.

The humanity of scientists – and what that really means – is what this book is about. For more than fifty years, scientists have been involved in a cover-up that is arguably one of the most successful of modern times. It has succeeded because even the scientists haven't understood what has been going on.

After the Second World War, science was given a makeover. It was turned into a brand – in the same way that Coca-Cola, Apple Computers, Disney and McDonald's are brands. The brand identity of science is reinforced with adjectives such as logical, responsible, trustworthy, predictable, dependable, gentlemanly, straight, boring, unexciting, objective, rational. Not in thrall to passions or emotion. A safe pair of hands. In summary: unhuman.

The creation and protection of this brand – the perpetuating of the myth of the rational, logical scientist who follows a clearly understood Scientific Method – has coloured everything in science. It affects the way it is done, the way we teach it, the way we fund it, its presentation in the media, the way its quality control structures – in particular, peer review – work (or don't work), the expectation we have of science's impact on society, and the way the public engages with science (and scientists with the public) and regards scientists' pronouncements as authoritative. We have been engaging with a caricature of science, not the real thing. But science is so vital to our future that it must now be set free from its branding. It is time to reveal science as the anarchic, creative, radical endeavour it has always been.

Science's domination of today's world belies the fact that it is a relative newcomer as a profession – perhaps one of the newest. Before the Second World War, jobs in science were largely ivory tower affairs reserved for the few. However, the global conflict showed that scientists were capable of changing the fates of nations. During those difficult years, science provided governments and their armies with penicillin, radar and – of course – the atomic bomb, among myriad other innovations. Those in power quickly realised that science was a good investment: if there should be another war, then whoever had the best scientists would win. Physicists were 'the Merlins of the Cold War', as Michael Schrage has put it: 'their wizardry could tip the balance of the superpowers in the twinkling of a quark'.

What followed, according to historian Steven Shapin, was the 'professionalisation and routinisation of science as a remunerated job'. So, with the prospect of secure funding, steady jobs and even good pensions, scientists set about making themselves look worthy of the investment. The first task was to solve their image problem.

At the end of the Second World War, when this process began, scientists were mistrusted. Though their power was enticing to governments, it was also disturbing. 'The Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of Science,' warned Winston Churchill, 'and what might now shower immeasurable material blessings upon mankind may even bring about its total destruction.'

Another of Churchill's pronouncements makes science's dilemma plain:

It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller.

Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.

The fear of science's power is almost palpable. Penicillin and radar had helped the Allies survive the conflict, but it was the scientists' cataclysmic unleashing of atomic energy that won it. And it was the scientific mind that produced the rockets that had rained down on London, causing such devastation and misery. Tales about the inhumanity of science were leaking out too: reports of scientists conducting gruesome and inhuman experiments in the German concentration camps, and of Japanese medical research on prisoners of war. Churchill would also have known of Allied scientists testing nerve gas and mustard gas on their own soldiers.

The scientists' first move was to dissipate the unease the public felt about science's power and sense of responsibility; science would henceforth serve the people. Science projected itself as responsible and safe: a careful, measured discipline involving sensible, level-headed people not given to dangerous passions. As the renowned biologist and broadcaster Jacob Bronowski put it just a few years after Hiroshima, the scientist became 'the monk of our age, timid, thwarted, anxious to be asked to help'.

It was a deliberate policy: whenever British scientists of the post-war era allowed television cameras into their laboratories, for example, the message was upbeat and optimistic, 'very much the image of science that the high-ups in the Royal Society wanted to put across', as Tim Boon, chief curator of London's Science Museum, has put it. Television drama, on the other hand, free from the influence of senior scientists, showed a much more distrustful attitude. 'You scientists,' rages a character in a 1960s drama, 'you kill half the world, and the other half can't live without you.'

Once the scientists' subservience was established, all they had to do was convince governments and the public that science had at its disposal a safe, efficient, controllable Method that, given enough resources, they could use to create a better world. It helped that science works so well. By 1957, 96 per cent of Americans said they agreed with the statement that 'science and technology are making our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable'.

The scientists too allowed themselves to be fooled by the cover-up. They became convinced that they were the heirs to a noble and dispassionate tradition, and that the brand values of science were carefully nurtured and passed down the scientific generations. According to the US Office of Technology Assessment, the average science professor trains around twenty PhD scientists. All are, almost unconsciously, taught to play by a set of rules that will perpetuate the myth of the responsible, level-headed, trustworthy scientist.

One of the few senior scientists to have dared to expose the spin was the British biologist and Nobel laureate Peter Medawar. Scientists, he admitted, 'actively misrepresent' themselves. The famed scientific routine of deductions based on experiments that were themselves based on logical hypotheses 'are simply the postures we choose to be seen in when the curtain goes up and the public sees us', Medawar said. 'The illusion is shattered if we ask what goes on behind the scenes.'

So what does go on behind the scenes? The most concise description was given by the Austrian-born physicist turned philosopher Paul Feyerabend. In 1975, Feyerabend published a book called Against Method in which he set out a shocking idea. When it comes to pushing at the frontiers of knowledge, there is only one rule, he said: Anything Goes. Science is anarchy.

Feyerabend was soon declared the 'worst enemy of science', and for good reason. His argument was deliberately provocative and mischievous, and he took it to the furthest extremes: witchcraft was just as valid a way of gathering knowledge, he once contended. But his point still stands. When we look behind the curtain, science is astonishing.

To make a breakthrough or to stay on top, scientists take drugs, they follow crazy dreams, they experiment on themselves and on one another, and occasionally they die in the process. They fight – sometimes physically, but mostly in intellectual battles. They try to entrap one another, standing in their colleagues' way to block progress and maintain the lead. They break all the rules of polite society, trampling on the sacred, showing a total disregard for authority. They commit fraud or deceive or manipulate others in order to get to the truth about how the world works. They conjure up seemingly ridiculous ideas, then fight tooth and nail to show that the ideas are not only far from ridiculous, but exactly how things really are. Some challenge the interests of government and business, occasionally sacrificing their reputations for the greater good. Science is peppered with successes that defy rational explanation, and failures that seem even more illogical. There are moments of euphoria and – just once in ten thousand working lifetimes – world-changing success.

This is not the 'wacky' science, the crazy things that happen on the fringes of research. This is the mainstream. These anarchies are behind many of the Nobel Prizes of the last few decades – the decades that have given us such powerful insights into what the universe is, how it works and how we fit into its schemes. It really does seem that, in science, anything goes.

And this is no modern phenomenon. Science has always been this way, because this is how it works. Isaac Newton, for instance, was cavalier with scientific truth, and cared nothing for the accepted rules of engagement. His writings contain passages that his biographers have declared to be 'nothing short of deliberate fraud'. He routinely made discoveries then kept them to himself, taunting his colleagues about his 'secret knowledge'.

Newton is known for humbly declaring that he had achieved his great breakthroughs by 'standing on the shoulders of giants'. Though this may be true in part, it is largely humbug. Newton was hardly humble, and it would be just as true to say that he achieved greatness by stamping on the shoulders of giants. When others, such as Robert Hooke and Gottfried Liebniz, made breakthroughs in fields he was also researching, Newton fought ferociously to deny them credit for their work. Though his reputation has been polished for centuries – he is the 'scientist's scientist' – Newton was not someone you would want to put in charge of science today; in later life he suffered episodes of madness and became obsessed with the Old Testament Book of Daniel, writing a commentary on it that he considered his greatest work. Hardly the model of scientific level-headedness.

Albert Einstein, who is widely considered to be the greatest scientist in history after Newton, provides another classic and shocking example of the reality behind scientific progress. Einstein relied on mystical insights – insights that his mathematics was not good enough to prove. His papers are riddled with errors and convenient omissions – though they were lazy fudges rather than, as with Newton, deliberate frauds. Einstein repeatedly failed to take account of known facts when formulating his ideas. He bristled at reviewers' criticisms of his papers. More than once he argued that any data found to be in conflict with his beautiful ideas should be ignored. He took credit for the E = mc2 equation even though he wasn't the first to suggest it. Neither did he ever manage to prove it, despite eight published attempts: it was left to other, better mathematicians to set the world's most famous equation on the firm footing it has today.

History, they say, is written by the winners. Perhaps that's why Galileo Galilei is also known as a hero, not a fraud. His Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World, banned for two centuries by the Catholic Church because it provides a bedrock for the heliocentric universe, is riddled with glaring errors. Though this monograph earned him a life sentence under house arrest, Galileo was no martyr to the truth: in many places, his science simply does not stand up. Given the man's obvious brilliance, historians now concede that his errors are an attempt at fraud resulting from obsession. Galileo was so convinced that the Earth moved round the Sun that he wasn't prepared to let the difficulties of making a watertight argument get in the way.

As we will see in the pages that follow, the tradition of scientific anarchy continues right up to the present day – though today's anarchies are much better concealed. But the purpose of this book is not just to present a string of entertaining anecdotes about scientific 'misbehaviour'. Its purpose is to show how scientists get the job done, and to argue that our misplaced expectations of science are preventing further discovery. This brand identity is not how science really is, and the disparity between the public image of science and the way breakthroughs are actually made matters more than most people realise or care to acknowledge. Scientists are starting to accept the straitjacket of the robot-researcher as if it were a standard-issue lab coat, necessary for the job. The fact is, you can't do good science in a straitjacket. This book is a call for more scientific anarchy, and for the creation of a culture in which it can thrive. After all, our future may depend on it.

On 20 November 2009, the world woke up to the 'climategate' scandal. Activists sceptical of scientists' claims about climate change had hacked into the email system of the University of East Anglia. They managed to download a set of communications which, the activists claimed, showed that scientists had manipulated climate data to strengthen the case for global warming.

The ensuing investigation eventually cleared the scientists involved of any scientific misdemeanours, but there were serious official misgivings about some of the scientists' attitudes and obstructiveness towards those trying to get hold of their data. And the damage, it seemed, was done. In February 2010, a poll commissioned by the BBC showed that the number of adults who did not think global warming was happening had increased by 10 per cent since the previous November. This was 'very disappointing', Bob Watson, the UK's chief environmental scientist, told BBC News. 'Trust has been damaged,' German climate scientist Hans von Storch told the Guardian in July 2010. 'People now find it conceivable that scientists cheat and manipulate.'

The thing is, this doesn't actually explain the BBC poll results. Close inspection reveals that most people who had changed their views as a direct result of climategate had become more convinced of global warming, not less.

The downturn in public acceptance of climate change was most likely a consequence of a harsh British winter. A study carried out in March by Stanford University researchers revealed that any impact of climategate on public opinion had already disappeared. This was confirmed in June, when polls on both sides of the Atlantic showed that February's increase in climate scepticism had died away.

The only tangible outcome of climategate was positive. People who were unsure about whether to trust scientists got a glimpse of scientists being human – and thought that was OK. In fact it was more than OK, as the net allegiance change in the BBC poll shows. Contrary to everything scientists might have feared, exposing their irrationality, their humanity, even their craftiness and hot tempers, makes the public more receptive to the revelations of science, not less. People can not only take the truth about science, they actually prefer it.

It seems that scientists may have perpetrated one of the most misguided cover-ups in history. The trouble is, it will be painful to undo because it has served some scientists rather well.

The educated Western mind venerates science to the point of mysticism: its proponents are the new high priests. And scientists do little to discourage that reverence. In his 1951 book The Common Sense of Science, Bronowski went so far as to admit that scientists actively welcome it. Scientists 'have enjoyed acting the mysterious stranger, the powerful voice without emotion, the expert and the god,' he wrote. A famous example of this comes at the end of Hawking's extraordinary book, A Brief History of Time. He talks about the revelations we are seeking from science. Get to where we want to go, he says, and we will 'know the mind of God'.


Excerpted from Free Radicals by MICHAEL BROOKS Copyright © 2011 by Michael Brooks . Excerpted by permission of THE OVERLOOK PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Michael Tucker is a writer and an actor, perhaps best known for his work on LA Law (for which he was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards). He is the author of three works of nonfiction, all about food and family. Michael Tucker lives in New York City and Italy with his wife, Jill Eikenberry.

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