The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington [NOOK Book]


Long before Robert Novak became the center of a political firestorm in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal, he had established himself as one of the finest—and most controversial—political reporters in America. Now, in this sweeping, monumental memoir, Novak offers the first full account of his involvement in that affair, while also revealing the fascinating story of his remarkable life and career. This is a singular journey through a half ...
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The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington

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Long before Robert Novak became the center of a political firestorm in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal, he had established himself as one of the finest—and most controversial—political reporters in America. Now, in this sweeping, monumental memoir, Novak offers the first full account of his involvement in that affair, while also revealing the fascinating story of his remarkable life and career. This is a singular journey through a half century of stories, scandals, and personal encounters with Washington’s most powerful and colorful people.

Novak has been a Washington insider since the days when the place was a sleepy southern town and journalism was built on shoe leather and the ability to cultivate and keep sources (not to mention the ability to hold one’s liquor). He has covered every president since Truman, known (personally and professionally) virtually all the big movers and shakers in D.C., and broken a number of the biggest stories—the Plame story, we see here, being far from the most important. In this book, he puts it all into perspective. He also reveals the extraordinary transformations that have fundamentally remade Washington, politics, and journalism—and his own role in those transformations.

Moving beyond the “first draft of history” that is daily journalism, Novak can at last tell the stories behind the stories. He vividly recalls encounters with the Kennedys (angry meetings with Bobby, a scary ride home in Jack’s convertible), his unusual relationship with Lyndon Johnson (who hosted Novak’s wedding reception and who, “drunk as a loon,” had to be carried out of a bar by the young newsman), a decidedly odd off-the-record lunch with Ronald Reagan, and his first meetings with George W. Bush—at which the veteran journalist seriously underestimated the future president. We meet other fascinating characters as well, from Deng Xiaoping to Ted Turner to Ezra Pound.

Writing with bracing candor, Novak tells us how politics and journalism truly operate at the highest levels, both publicly and behind closed doors. He is equally open about his private experience. He writes frankly about the days when his drinking reflected too closely the boozy ways of the town. He acknowledges times when his job took precedence over his family. He is reflective about his political journey to the right. And he writes more personally than ever before about his spiritual journey, from his early life as a secular Jew to his conversion to Catholicism at the age of sixty-seven.

Packed with riveting, never-before-told stories, The Prince of Darkness is a hugely entertaining and equally perceptive view of fifty years in the life of Washington and the people who cover it.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the half century in Washington, conservative political journalist Robert D. Novak has often been a newsmaker as well as a news commentator. During the LBJ and Nixon administrations, his columns were closely read for their insider's information on Vietnam and Watergate. In more recent years, he has been embroiled in debates over the Valerie Plame leak scandal and his own abrupt dismissal from CNN. In The Prince of Darkness, this controversial pundit bares his soul and his secrets about life on that side of the Potomac.
Jack Shafer
Journalism is the first rough draft of history, Philip Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, once said. Many Novak columns—including the Plame piece—are first rough drafts of journalism; they require further assembly by readers. While other writers concentrate on the arteries of power, Novak has made a specialty of the capillaries. Still, his book is an enlightening field guide to the politicians and journalists who inhabit those micro places.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The barbs start flying on page one (Bush critic Joseph Wilson: "What an asshole!") and continue to nearly the end (CNN correspondent Ed Henry: "duplicitous phony") of this thick memoir by the conservative journalist and pundit. Novak recounts his journey from Associated Press cub reporter through longtime "Evans and Novak" columnist scooping up Beltway political dirt to ubiquitous talk-show talking head. Along the way he drinks and gambles, battles liberal media bias, wrangles contracts with cable channels, settles scores with critics (more-hawkish-than-thou pundit David Frum is "a cheat and a liar"), defends his outing of Valerie Plame and tosses in many old columns, which read like a seismograph tracing of political microtremors (Melvin Laird to be Nixon's defense secretary!). More tantalizing are the glimpses of his relations with official sources, who know they won't be attacked in print as long as they give good tips. Novak's insider perspective, vitriolic pen and damn-the-torpedoes frankness make it a lively and eye-opening account of big-foot journalism. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The controversial conservative columnist bares all-or some, at any rate-to stake a claim for fame beyond naming Valerie Plame. To trust Novak, long ago nicknamed "the prince of darkness," he named Joe Wilson's CIA-agent wife as a sort of afterthought in the wake of a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Why, Novak asks, would the CIA send Wilson, with no intelligence experience, off to check on whether Saddam Hussein was buying yellow cake uranium in Niger? Because his wife is in the agency, Armitage replies: And the rest, apart from a quick check of Who's Who, is history. "I have written many, many more important columns," Novak laments, "but the one on the CIA leak case will forever be part of my public identity." As if by way of rebuttal, Novak's memoir offers a rich self-assessment of his work. Regardless of what one thinks of his politics, which can charitably be branded as somewhere between paleoconservative and reactionary, Novak's abilities as a writer of vigorous, highly readable prose are not to be dismissed. And admirably for a journalist these days, Novak takes pride in his legendary scrappiness: "I am not a person who is easy for a lot of people to like," he writes. "No stirrer-up of strife is ever very popular." When he is not recounting his stinging disagreements with every administration since Ike's-his longtime partner Rowland Evans made Nixon's enemies list, but Novak, unaccountably, did not-Novak details the boozy world of Washington politics, writing, for instance, that Daniel Patrick Moynihan "was most qualified to be president and did not make it," thanks in good measure to an over-fondness for the sauce. Moreover, he tallies up his legendaryfeuds with just about everyone who is anyone-revealing, along the way, that political operatives such as Carville and Atwater can be as vicious to their own kind as to their enemies. Sure to be popular reading inside the Beltway, and worthy of an audience far beyond it as well. Agent: Esther Newberg/International Creative Management, Inc.
From the Publisher
"The controversial conservative columnist bares all...Novak's memoir offers a rich self-assessment of his work. Sure to be popular reading inside the Beltway, and worthy of an audience far beyond it as well."
Kirkus (starred review)

"Novak's insider-perspective, vitriolic pen and damn-the-torpedoes frankness make it a lively and eye-opening account of big-foot journalism."
Publisher's Weekly

"Every now and then a book comes along that everyone interested in politics should read. The new memoir by veteran journalist Robert D. Novak, I think, is one of those books...For the story it tells about American politics, as well as its candor, Novak's book covering his five decades as a print and TV journalist, immediately becomes the indispensable guide to what you really need to know about the messy intersection of the media and politics in Washington."
—Deal W. Hudson, former publisher of Crisis magazine

"Anyone interested in politics, journalism, and the course of public events over the last 50 years who does not buy and read The Prince of Darkness is denying himself one of the pleasures that life on this earth very seldom offers."
—Michael Barone, The Weekly Standard

"An extraordinary inside look at life in Washington over the last 50 years."
—Tim Russert

"Highly readable account of a remarkable journalistic career...A meaty book, full of delicious anecdotes."
Wall Street Journal

"Novak should be celebrated for his brutal honesty."
Christian Science Monitor

"Arguably the best journalist in Washington in the last half century...Both a brutally candid and important book, as well as a riveting read."
—Pat Buchanan, syndicated columnist

"This is history as it happened, without spin or an agenda...While older people with much experience in life may be better able to appreciate this outstanding book, it should be especially valuable to the young in presenting a realistic and three-dimensional picture of the world. They can get a lot of enlightenment from a prince of darkness."
—Thomas Sowell, syndicated columnist

"A book that anyone interested in politics or journalism ought to read...This is a book to savor."
Human Events

"A lot of fun...It really is just a great slice of political history and Americana."
—Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online

"[Novak is] a Washington institution who paints himself, convincingly, as churlish, brave, resilient, petty, and indefatigable. I got it as soon as it came out and found it entertaining,...human, and frank."
—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

"Characteristic bluntness reigns throughout as he recalls 50 years of political reporting...He is frank and unapologetic about his work, his viewpoints, and his personal shortcomings."

“Fascinating . . . an enlightening field guide to the politicians and journalists.”  
New York Times Book Review

“You won’t be able to put this book down.”
The American Spectator

“Page-turning . . . So informative is the book, and so rich its story of Washington, D.C., over the past half ­century, that many readers no doubt will long for more.”
Washington Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307394712
  • Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/10/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 604,970
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

ROBERT D. NOVAK writes “Inside Report,” one of the longest-running syndicated columns in the nation, and the “Evans-Novak Political Report,” which he began in the 1960s with the late Rowland Evans. Now a Fox News contributor, he spent twenty-five years as a political commentator for CNN. Novak is the author or coauthor of five other books, the most recent being Completing the Revolution. He lives in Washington, D.C.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Table of Contents

The Plame Affair     1
Political Beginnings     15
Cub Reporter     21
From Omaha to 'Naptown     28
Advice from Ezra Pound     36
Joining the Journal     42
Emperor of the Senate     48
Driving with Kennedy     58
New Frontier     70
LBJ Hosts a Wedding Reception     78
The Odd Couple     93
The Goldwater Revolution     104
The Agony of the GOP     114
The Great Society: In Ascent     123
The Great Society: In Descent     134
Clean Gene, Bobby, and LBJ     151
Realignment 1968     165
Den of Vipers     180
Vietnam     194
The Frustration of Power     201
"Amnesty, Abortion and Acid"     212
Watergate     233
The Ford Interlude     253
Reagan's Rebellion     268
Jimmy Who?     282
The Snopes Clan in the White House     296
Supply-Side and China     314
A Young Congressman from New York     333
The Birth of CNN     345
The Reagan Revolution     359
A Near-DeathExperience     374
The Slowest Realignment in American History     391
"I'll Try Ollie North"     404
The Last Days of Reagan     421
Blowup     437
Believing Their Own Spin     459
Yeltsin Up, Bush Down     480
Clinton = Republican Tsunami     501
"Will Success Spoil Newt Gingrich?"     518
Conversion     539
The Rise of George W. Bush     557
Death of a Partner     570
Attacking Iraq and Attacking Novak     584
The Plame Affair II     597
Farewell to CNN     618
A Stirrer-up of Strife     637
Author's Note     639
Index     641
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2007

    Bob Novak Owes Karl Rove and the President an Explanation and an Apology

    Basically, I found the book interesting and informational. But all the hullabaloo over release of these memoirs has obscured a troubling question regarding Novak's role in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case: that is, why didn't Novak immediately issue a statement that Karl Rove was NOT his source? Am I the only one asking? Although Novak knew the primary source of the alleged leak to be former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, he waited almost three years before speaking out. His failure to do so early on is puzzling, as is his reference in his 'outing' column to having had conversations with 'two senior White House officials.' Surely he knew that such a remark would unleash the liberal media and Democrats in Congress and elsewhere on a 'witchhunt' seeking the identity of those two. Meanwhile, during that three year interval, the White House, President Bush and Karl Rove were subjected to unmerciful, relentless attacks and harrassment from the Left. Rove was forced to defend himself against unfounded accusations that he was the source of the leak. This required him to hire a lawyer at great personal expense, and waste his time and energy parading to the Courthouse to answer Grand Jury questions put to him by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and telling the same story: 'I did not out Valerie Plame. There was no plot by the President to hurt Joe Wilson.' Later, Fitzgerald admitted he had no evidence linking Rove to the leak. After his infamous press conference at which he announced that no indictment would be forthcoming against Rove, groans of disappointment from the Left were audible. And President Bush? He was accused by the liberal media 'David Corn of The Nation Magazine was only one of many' of having masterminded a plot to 'out' Joe Wilson's wife to 'get even' with Wilson for his 2002 report for the CIA debunking intelligence that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa. The liberal media also gave wide, prominent coverage to a Senate speech by Harry Reid (D-NV) placing this example of left-wing paranoia on the public record. Mr. Bush was slandered daily by Democrats for a 'lack of moral values' and 'lack of integrity.' Talk about the proverbial pot calling the kettle black! Although Democrats continued publicly to parrot that the whole thing MUST have been a Republican plot, their sleazy house of cards finally completely collapsed around their ears in September 2006, when former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage confessed publicly that HE had revealed Plame's identity to Novak. That was followed a week later by a 'clarification' column from Novak, which, although welcome and helpful, did not explain why he himself had not stepped forward earlier with a statement that Rove had NOT been his source. Perhaps, in a way he has explained. All those years of heavy drinking in the Washington pubs may have soaked his brain with alcohol, thereby slightly addling his thinking. A year ago I wrote in one of my columns: 'Meanwhile, don't hold your breath waiting for an apology to President Bush, Karl Rove, and the public from liberal Democrats, commentators, and journalists for this partisan ploy, which was at the least an expensive distraction from the people's bona fide business.' 'See 'My Turn to Sound Off: Being a Liberal Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry!' Anthony J. Sacco, Sr., October 2006. Now however, it appears that the above-named groups are not the only ones who owe apologies. Novak's exlanation for why HE kept silent and his apology for the harm his silence caused are long overdue.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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