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The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington Hardcover – July 10, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Novak immediately cuts to the chase, beginning this memoir with his first in-person encounter with Joseph Wilson, in the green room of NBC's Meet the Press in 2003. Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, would eventually form the center of a major career-jeopardizing controversy for Novak, who is blunt in his immediate low opinion of the man. And that characteristic bluntness reigns throughout as he recalls 50 years of political reporting. He was working for the Associated Press when he met his mentor, Willard Edwards of the Chicago Tribune, a "diehard right-wing Republican who was part of the Red-hunting establishment." Edwards is only one of the fascinating characters--both reporters and politicos--appearing throughout the book, including John and Bobby Kennedy, George W. Bush, Ted Turner, and Novak's former partner, Rowland Evans. He is frank and unapologetic about his work, his viewpoints, and his personal shortcomings. Ambitious and, for a while, very much a part of the liquor-soaked Washington power scene, Novak neglected his family. True to his conservative beliefs and sentiments, he traces the trajectory of Republican influence and his disagreement with Republican presidents. Novak also traces the growth of Washington from a sleepy town to a power center, prone to treacherous machinations. Having traveled through the chronology of news events of the past 50 years, Novak returns to the Plame Affair, detailing the fallout of his column "outing" Plame as a CIA agent and expresses no regrets. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; 1 edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400051991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400051991
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on July 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Robert Novak is a throwback to a time when being civil to people you
disagreed with was the norm rather than the exception. In many ways this
is a very sad autobiography, since you can see the bleak contrasts to
the current standards where people with different viewpoints are regarded
as "the enemy", and being polite to the enemy is close to treason. But
those same contrasts also make this book essential reading: if there were
more Novaks on the left, right, and middle the country would be much
better off.

Novak is not hesitant to describe his own mistakes and shortcomings--
another stark contrast to most of the current politicians and pundits.
Time and again he relates how various people "used" him in underhanded
ways through carefully selected leaks. Leaks are like Oxycontin--
a drug that can be beneficial, but which can also be very harmful.
Novak, of course, survives on leaks--but he also acknowledges that you
can't criticize your leakers, any more than an addict can attack his
dealer, and I get the sense from the book that he's not entirely happy
with this arrangement--that it's a little bit as though people could buy
you off.

Novak is very candid about his warts, so to speak--smoking, drinking,
fighting, etc, and also very candid about the things that changed his
life, personally and politically, such as his conversion to Catholicism
and his epiphany vis-a-vis Ronald Reagan. Novak is astute, and accepts
that his initial judgements can be mistaken--other qualities lacking in
most politicians and pundits nowadays.

Of particular interest to me were the descriptions of his cable TV work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very good book for national political junkies, fans of cable TV news/opinion programing, and those interested in the extended column-writing career of Robert Novak. (The reverse side of this coin is that those who did not watch The Capital Gang and Cross Fire will not have much interest in the ins and outs of these CNN programs.)

Old scores are settled, past dust-ups are explained (notably the author's role in the Valerie Palme/CIA story), and personal views by Mr. Novak on decades of both national political leaders -- and those who reported on them -- are set forth with hard-edged clarity.

This is a much better book than many recent Washington, D.C. memoirs (such as the late Jack Valenti's, also published this year.) Mr. Novak writes with the honest abandon that comes from not caring too much what others in his nominal circle might think.

I appreciated most in this book the author's personal evaluations and insights devoted to past political figures and administrations, such as that of President Johnson.
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Format: Hardcover
Whatever you think of Robert Novak's political views, it's hard to deny that he's played a large role in American political life since the late 1950s. It's hard to think of too many reporters that covered the Eisenhower years who are still active today.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS is a remarkably enjoyable book about Novak's life as a reporter, which provides a lot of insights into American history. Novak is undeniably ideological, but that's half the fun of reading this memoir. I grew up watching Novak on CNN, and I always found him enjoyable to listen to, even if I sometimes violently disagreed with his mostly conservative opinions.

This book is pretty much what you think it is. It is filled with a lot of anecdotes, fun stories, and a ton of Novak's blunt opinions and evaluations of people. It also provides some insights into the nature of political journalism and how its evolved over the last fifty years. If you're a political junkie and enjoy watching Novak on television, you should really enjoy this book. But if you can't stand the sight of him, as some people clearly do, then this book is obviously not for you.

Apparently the original manuscript of this book was 1,400 (!) pages long and Novak's editors forced him to cut it down quite a bit. There is still a lot of minutiae in this 672-page book, some of which will go over the heads of people who are not obsessed with politics. But overall, this book is very enjoyable and I recommend it to conservatives and liberals alike who are interested in political history.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert D. Novak will never be confused with Pollyanna! He is a tough, conservative, vituperative, combative and pugnacious reporter. Along with his fellow columnist Roland Evans he has served over 50 long years in the trenches of national politics in that la-la land called Washington DC. (or Disneyland East!). (Evans died a few years ago)
Regardless of the reader's political proclivities this is a very enjoyable, informative and disillusioning look at the leaders of our fair land. As one who disagrees often with the acerbic Mr. Novak I can recommend this book highly due to such qualities as:
Novak's ability to succinctly etch in a telling anecdote the character of the politician coming under his scrutiny. He rates Ronald Reagan highly and disdains such liberal chief executives as Jimmy Carter (who he calls a practiced lier); and his bete noire Bill Clinton. Whether you concur in his opinions the author does express himself in forceful prose.
Novak is an Illinoisan by birth;majored in English Literature at the University of Illinois; became a print reporter (most notably with the Wall Street Journal) and served as a conservative reporter on CNN for a quarter of a century. Novak appeared on such stalwart CNN shows as "Crossfire"; "The Evans-Novak Report" "Capital Gang" and other lesser programs. Novak details his battles with the "suits" at CNN and his disdain for liberal journalist. He has also had major feuds with such neocons as Bill Kristol.
Novak is honest in listing his many faults. He is moody, tempermental and often quick to take offense. The reporter has survived several scary incidents with cancer, broken hips and spinal menigitis. Novak was born a secular Jew but has converted to Roman Catholicism. I applaud his commitment to his newly discovered faith.
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