Only a political earthquake could keep O. Mack Bender from a third term in the Senate. But his dark-horse opponent, Victor T. Donovan, hires a television genius with the ethics of Boss Tweed to turn the race into a shootout. Raphael Ames is an alchemist, a political wizard who can turn dirt into gold and make the worst cause look honorable. Yet even Ames is challenged when a torrid affair between his candidate's wife and a prominent Washington journalist is disclosed. Hardball and spitball become the rule for ...
Only a political earthquake could keep O. Mack Bender from a third term in the Senate. But his dark-horse opponent, Victor T. Donovan, hires a television genius with the ethics of Boss Tweed to turn the race into a shootout. Raphael Ames is an alchemist, a political wizard who can turn dirt into gold and make the worst cause look honorable. Yet even Ames is challenged when a torrid affair between his candidate's wife and a prominent Washington journalist is disclosed. Hardball and spitball become the rule for both candidates as slanderous ads start appearing on national TV, salacious stories hit the papers and both candidates take to the low road in a battle for survival. Tom Wicker's biting view of chicanery and dirty tricks on the campaign trail is closely in tune with much of modern politics. He shows how clever and unscrupulous handlers and spin doctors can turn political disasters into gold, and a clean record into a legacy of shame. Today's media machine has made politics vulnerable to scurrilous advertising, selective editing and slanted campaign speeches, and Tom Wicker takes us behind the scenes for all the sleazy details. Full of twisted politicians, brilliantly amoral PR sharks and the peccadilloes of those in power, Donovan's Wife is a novel of explosive romance, unbounded power and rampant megalomania. It captures perfectly the spirit of too many modern elections.
Former New York Times columnist and occasional novelist Wicker knows his Washington backward and forward, and that insider authenticity is the best thing this ambiguous novel has going for it. Victor Donovan is a smooth, opportunistic congressman who after years of empty mediocrity is suddenly galvanized by a cynical young media manipulator into running for a U.S. Senate seat against a distinguished but vulnerable incumbent. His lovely but dissatisfied wife, Josie, once nursed a passion for Milo Speed, a widely read columnist who has never lost his feelings for her. These are the chief ingredients in a book that cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a satirical comedy, a realistic view of sound-byte politics today, or a tough yet sentimental love story. It is never entirely satisfactory in any aspect, although it strikes off plenty of sparks in its picture of the utter ruthlessness of TV campaigning. Part of the problem is that Wicker seems to disdain the electorate as much as he does the empty politicos who manipulate it, which makes for an ultimately depressing, if occasionally hilarious, read. (Oct.)
Victor T. Donovan is quietly serving out his rather undistinguished career as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives when he's noticed by media genius Rafael Ames. Ames spots at once the Honorable Vic's compelling TV appeal and knows that his own career would advance if he were instrumental in getting Donovan elected to the U.S. Senate. Attack television is Ames's medium of choice--issues on which the candidates could take stands become irrelevant. Challenger and incumbent level charges and countercharges of sexual misconduct, voice unsubstantiated rumor, and cite voting records taken out of context in 30-second spots on TV. A story threatens to surface about a long-since-past love affair between Donovan's wife and Milo Speed, a venerated Washington reporter, and a plethora of dirty tricks emerge along with Donovan's ambition. The dialog is fast, furious, and believable, coming as it does from Wicker, recently retired as political columnist for the New York Times for over 30 years. Recom mended for political fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/92.--M.J. Hethcoat, San Francisco
Crisscrossing sexual allegations heat up a dirty, vacuous Senate race: a bittersweet election-year bonbon from veteran journalist Wicker (One of Us, 1991, etc.). After years of catatonic dozing in a safe western House district, Rep. Victor T. Donovan suddenly explodes onto the national scene when he interrupts a routine subcommittee hearing by accusing a prominent industrialist of ties to pornography. When the resulting rocket of publicity demonstrates that although Donovan may not have an idea in his head, he has a record clean as a blank slate and an unmatched instinct for the political jugular, kingmaker Darwin John decides he's just the long-shot to take on two-term Senator O. Mack Bender. Armed with TV-generation Rafael Ames's attack ads ("Even his ink is red!") and a dubious rumor about Bender's ancient dalliance with Gabriella Lukes—a rumor whose possible backlash he defuses by publicly firing Calvin Kyle, the digger who dug it up—Donovan pulls close enough in the polls to provoke Bender into contemplating an equally scurrilous counterattack (substantiated by none other than Kyle, who's naturally gone over to the enemy): revealing the equally ancient liaison between Josie Donovan and aging, womanizing columnist Milo Speed. Sensation—because although many candidates in US politics have lived down their own sexual shenanigans, nobody's ever survived public identification as a cuckold. Warned of the danger by unloving but loyal Josie, Donovan plots to contain the damage, not knowing that the threat of exposure is driving Speed back to Josie and away from his current bedmate, perky, calculating staffer Lacy Farnes—who uses one cool eye to assess thecandidate's virtue and the other to plot revenge. Electoral politics without gloves, courtesy, idealism, intelligence, or substantive issues of any kind—maybe so close to the current state of affairs that it turns out to be more depressing than funny. Read it and weep.