Peerless fashion publicist Geoffrey Saunders not only gave me the beautiful pink Massimo Bizzocchi tie that I wore at my Playboy party in July (see earlier posts), but he voluntarily and without prodding posted a review of The Coup on the Barnes & Noble website, bn.com. Calling it `DC Backstabbing at its Best’, Geoffrey calls the book `an enjoyable read. Sex, corruption, illegal deals with China, treason– what more could you ask for?” Just so, Geoffrey–what more could a reader ask for? Wizards? Stuff about global warming? Willfully obtuse comedy from Stephen Colbert? Well, sorry. We’ll just stick to our sex-corruption-treason formula, thank you very much.
I’m delighted to report that the special host for the Robin’s reading in Philadelphia will be Duane Swierczynski. Duane not only happens to be the editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia City Paper, and is not only a fellow graduate of La Salle (I’m so much older than Duane that when I graduated from the school, it was a mere college, but since Duane’s matriculation, it’s become a frickin’ University!), but Duane is also a terrific crime novelist. I’ve read his two most recent works, The Wheel Man and The Blonde (which comes out in paperback on October 30th), and they are funny, fast-paced, inventive and no grislier than the mayhem warrants. And like Laura Lippman and Baltimore and the early Elmore Leonard and Detroit, Duane liberally incorporates Philadelphia locales into almost every scene; if you’ve ever spent time in Philadelphia (as I have–six years), you be thrilled at how vividly this helps you visualize the various brawls, burials and beheadings that Duane has conjured up.
The folks at Robin’s Bookstore in Philadelphia have invited me to have a reading at their store at 108 S. 13th Street on November 3rd at 3 PM. On their website is just the most complimentary description of The Coup. “In the same way Christopher Buckley‘s Thank You For Smoking put the blatant immorality of the tobacco industry under the microscope, and Max Barry‘s Company cast office life in a jarringly truthful light, The Coup by Jamie Malanowski stands Washington D.C. on its head and proves that when journalism and politics are in bed together, anything can happen, even a shift in the world’s most powerful hierarchy. Godwin Pope is Vice President of The United States of America. He detests his job. Tired of playing second fiddle to the completely inept President Jack Mahone, Pope decides to take action instead of sitting idly by as the country suffers through three more years of his disastrous term. He concocts what can only be described as Watergate, mixed with Monica Lewinsky Part II, and a hint of Enron thrown in for good measure to create a scheme which will leave Mahone so tainted by scandal and humiliation that although the President didn’t actually do anything, he’ll have no choice but to resign. The Coup gleefully captures the media frenzy and behind the back deals that define D.C. as well as portrays scarily realistic characters who scheme, dupe, and flat out run each other over to get to the top. Jamie Malanowski, whose witty writing has adorned the pages of The New Yorker and The Washington Post, and has held the title of Senior Editor at Time and Esquire is the perfect “candidate” to author a funny and knowing political satire which lays out in black and white the ridiculous three ring circus that tends to be our nation’s capital. This ingeniously plotted story is not only deliciously cynical, but draws on our own political climates from Clinton to G.W., and packs an ending so entertaining yet believable that you’ll wish Malanowski was writing the real White House script, if only to see what Godwin Pope will pull out of his sleeve in the next election.” Thanks, guys–see you on the 3rd.
Marshal Zeringue, a writer and an advocate for writers, recently linked the interview that I did with Rick Atkinson a couple of weeks to a go to a blog he edits called, in a no-frills sort of way, Author Interviews. Marshall also edits several other blogs, including Campaign for the American Reader, Writers Read, and The Page 99 Test. This last website test derives from an observation made by Ford Maddox Ford— “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.’’ Marshal wrote me an email and asked me if I feel that Ford’s statement is true for The Coup.
Mmmh. The answer is “I suppose so,’’ although it would be true mostly in the way a look at the care and material used in wiring and plumbing reveals the quality of a whole house. I believe Norman Mailer once said something to the effect that the difficulty in writing a novel is getting people in and out of rooms, and something like that is happening on page 99 of The Coup, except that my main character, Vice President Godwin Pope, is already in a very big and crowded room, and he is moving his attention from one character (the President) to another (reporter Maggie Newbold, to whom he is mightily attracted.) So page 99 is where I make this transition. I like how economically I accomplished this move. I wanted the pacing here to feel natural, not rushed or contrived, but at the same time smooth and compact, so the reader wouldn’t get bored. In that way, page 99 represents the good quality of the writing in the book. However, there’s not a lot of humor going on here, nor are the major characters doing much that interesting, so in that way it’s not representative of the whole. Had Ford advised looking on page 98, we would see the president giving an after-dinner speech, where he is charming and humble and acts in a way that might make the reader think very differently about him. Or if we look at page 100, we would see the beginning of a several page-long sequence in which Godwin and Maggie continue their seduction dance, a scene which is witty and even romantic, something pretty delightful, given what a pair of ambitious vipers these two are. On such pages would you find more of the energy and sharp humor that readers have liked about The Coup.
For the curious among you, here’s my review from The Washington Monthly of Stephen F. Hayes‘ incurious and unpenetrating biography of our vice president, Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. Bottom line: wait a couple years for a real biography to come out.
Jim Agnew, monitor of the literary world, made The Coup `Pick of the Day’ on October 9th. Thanks, Jim. That’s always going to be our special day.
My mother-in-law, Marie Jackson of Commerce City, Colorado, is one of the world’s friendliest women. Recently, she was in her local library, and, overcome by an irresistible urge to boost her son-in-law, she told the librarian that I had recently published The Coup. Right away, the librarian looked up the book in some super-exclusive data base available only to librarians, and discovered that somebody in the library system–some individual or commission possessed of uncommon insight and taste–had awarded The Coup four stars. (We’re just going to presume that this was four out of a possible four, not five or ten or a Milky Way galaxy of possible stars.) So right away, right on the spot–because that’s how they do things out west, no prissy prevaricating– the librarian ordered a copy for his branch. So thanks, Marie, and thanks, librarian, and thanks, rankers in the ranking system. Soon we hope to send Marie on a tour of every branch in the system, to see if she can work her magic again. Continue reading “FOUR STARS OVER COLORADO”
Rick Atkinson is one of my favorite writers. Twice a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with The Washington Post, Atkinson is also the author of several books on military subjects, including The Long Gray Line, a narrative account of the West Point class of 1966; Crusade, a history of the Persian Gulf War; and In the Company of Soldiers, an account of the Iraq war, written from his perspective as an embedded reporter. An Army at Dawn, the first volume of a three volume history of the American army in the European theater in World War II, won him a third Pulitzer in 2002. Day of Battle, the second volume, has just been published to great reviews, which enthusiastically praise his masterful use of language and the adroit way he moves his focus between a grand overview and telling close-up. We’re delighted that Rick took time to answer some of our questions.
Today it often seems that what many younger Americans remember about the war is limited to Pearl Harbor, Omaha Beach and Hiroshima. Your book is book is about America’s second act in the war in Europe, if you will, the war in Italy. As with a lot of second acts, what happened there tends to get overshadowed. What should Americans know about our war in Italy?
First they should know, and hopefully never forget, that 23,501 Americans were killed in action in Italy between Sept. 1943 and May 1945, and that total Allied casualties exceeded 312,000. The Italian campaign was both a milestone on the road to victory in World War II and a stepping stone toward a free, stable Europe. It was a campaign of liberation that worked as planned by unshackling Italy from both the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and his alliance with Nazi Germany. Continue reading “TALKING WWII WITH RICK ATKINSON”
Posting on the website grassrootsandgranite.com, (a New Hampshire website devoted “to all things political”) the perceptive commentator Rebecca Lavoie (of course I would think her perceptive, but you’ll see the objective accuracy of my opinion in coming days when you read her My Turn column in Newsweek, which has nothing to do with me) compliments The Coup for delivering “the near-impossible. . . a satisfying and indulgent fictional spin on today’s political environment that packages sex, intrigue, and smarts in a neat tale of a bored Vice President who figures out a plan to get himself promoted.” Well knowing that enough is never enough when it comes to complimenting a writer, Rebecca calls The Coup “a yummy novel” (with the use of that adjective, thereby fulfilling a life-long wish I only just realized I possessed), and says“because of his juxtaposition of slap and slither, and the cleverness of the plot to overthrow the President hatched by the protagonist, Malanowski’s book really works.” Wow! Thanks, Rebecca!
Rob Marchant has labeled me “a well-versed observer of the dark arts practiced in the corridors of power’’ who possesses “an interest in the scheming, ambitious, grandiose side of American life.’’ Rob, flattery will get you everywhere. In a complimentary profile on front page story in Sunday’s Journal News—the big Gannett paper in Westchester County, where I make my home—Rob recounts my career, talks about how I came to write The Coup, coerces some friends and neighbors to say nice things about me, and correctly describes my family’s prodigious livestock holdings (for the record: two dogs, four cats, two snakes, one rabbit.) Thanks, Rob.