From Publishers Weekly
Frank's second Beltway novel (after The Columnist) pokes fun at power seekers on both sides of the aisle, political insiders for whom a sentence of "obscurity without parole" is the worst possible fate. It's the eve of the 1988 presidential election, and everyone in Washington is angling for a role in the administration to come. Hank Morriday is a welfare expert in low-level orbit at a Democratic think tank, hoping that a Dukakis victory will bring him a White House job. Charlie Dingleman, on the other hand, has already had his time in the sun; he's a former three-term congressman bumped from office after a bad-and public-divorce. There's hope for Charlie, in the form of an adviser's role during Reagan's final few months in office, but first he's got to avoid any negative publicity-something he has an extraordinarily difficult time doing. He makes a crude pass at a fellow lawyer, hard-nosed Judith Grust; then some lewd, disorderly behavior outside his house compounds the problem. Judith, who is meant to be the kind of woman who cries "sexual harassment" rather than "wolf," decides to sabotage Charlie's White House chances. She turns to Hank, who has some tentative media connections, and Hank, desperate to be included in anything important, plays along, setting off a spiral of bad press that no one anticipated. Once again, Frank portrays Washington as a handful of power brokers circled by an enormous population of opportunistic has-beens and never-will-bes. That rings true, but none of the main characters are strong enough-or bad enough-to give the picture real bite.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In the fall of 1987, Charlie Dingleman, a former congressman, is frittering away his days at a Washington, D.C., law firm, and regretting the divorce that cost him the election. Just as he comes up for a job at the White House, he makes a maladroit comment to a colleague, who swiftly leverages it as an incident of "sexual harassment" to advance her career and destroy his. Frank's prose is as clear and cold as a well-iced Martini, and lets the characters skewer themselves, from sad-sack Dingleman and his baleful nemesis to an overtanned P.R. agent who proudly wears her company's logo—two teeth biting into the globe—and a liberal welfare expert who rolls up the car windows when he drives through blighted neighborhoods. The satire slyly exposes a Beltway world of has-beens and never-wases, where hopefuls scrabble for attention at cocktail parties and an unreturned phone call is a death knell.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker