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The People's Choice: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

When conservative President-elect MacArthur Foyle dies in a freak accident four days after the election, it seems as if the next leader of the United States will be his running mate, Ted Block, whose frequent verbal mishaps are no doubt intended to remind readers of some vice-presidential figure or other (wink, wink). But one electoral representative from Michigan, Dorothy Ledger, sets off a wild chain of events when she innocently asks about some procedural rules....

Veteran TV political correspondent Jeff Greenfield has pulled off the seemingly impossible task of making one of the most arcane components of the American political system, the Electoral College, the center of a genuinely entertaining novel. Some of the fun, of course, stems from the "guess who" quality of many of the political characters, but the scrappy, improvised team assembled by Dorothy and her friends also provides much fun.

From Publishers Weekly

ABC news commentator Greenfield gives a deft satiric spin to his first novel, a cautionary tale about the electing of the U.S. president. The country is set into a constitutional tailspin two days after the November election when President-elect MacArthur Foyle, a conservative Republican, dies as a result of a rodeo accident. Vice President-elect Ted Block, universally acclaimed as "a step or two slow out of the cognitive gate," looks to be a shoo-in for the Oval Office until a renegade member of the electoral college, Dorothy Ledger, an office manager of a Michigan Bank & Trust, balks at having to vote for the moderate veep. Ledger, joined by a New Jersey plumber, a Texas history professor and a CalTech computer-whiz dropout, orchestrates a campaign that leads to other electors willing to change or withhold their votes. Meanwhile, a menagerie of cynics and opportunists led by D.C. "political powerbroker" Jack Petitcon, the megawealthy, self-styled "Hebrew from the Bayou," and W. Dixon Mason, a rhyming, dissembling, African American preacher, moves toward endorsing its own favorite candidate. Suspense depends on who will prevail: VP-elect Block, the ailing Democratic incumbent or the candidate of splintered factions. After a tense electoral vote, an unexpected yet honorable resolution is reached. Characterization sometimes takes a back seat to plot machinations here but, for the most part, what The Player did for Hollywood, The People's Choice, in its unabashed flailing of the American system, does for presidential politics. Film rights to Savoy Pictures; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452277051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452277052
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on August 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
A well-written, very funny book. Subtle satire and laugh-out-loud scenes co-exist in this thought-provoking novel which digs up the underside of the Electoral College system and turns it over so we can see it in all its so-called-glory.
I've given copies of this book to several people, all of whom have been inspired by it to go read the Constitution of the United States, to see just how plausible the plot is. That's not a bad effect for a book to have on people.
In any case, whether it makes you think or not, it is undeniably a very funny book with unforgettable characters and situations. The writing is fine: realtively fluent and unobtrusive. And Jeff Greenfield has a very good eye for the ridiculous, while maintaining a high level of compassion for people who are doing the best they can.
Definitely recommended in an election year.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
While covering Campaign 2000 late last October, I loaned this book to my boss, who started it... and then, after Election Day, was unable to finish it because Greenfield's imagined fiasco was too close to reality. (In fact, Greenfield said that what happened in the 2000 election put this book to shame.)
Greenfield is television's smartest and most knowledgable commentator about elections, and this comedic novel about the Electoral College -- imagining what might happen if, following the president-elect's death, the electors decided they did not want to make the vice president-elect president -- is full of great historical tidbits. Greenfield is at his best, and seems to be enjoying himself the most, where filling pages with anecdotes about electoral wrinkles in the past. That's where the book shines.
As for the story itself, it is a bit thin, and the ending is less than satisfying. But, especially with the renewed (but now-waning) interest in the Electoral College, this book is a fun read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Jeff Greenfield is not primarily a fiction author by trade, and it shows in this effort. While he occasionally comes up with laugh-out-loud funny scenarios, he is more often than not doing workman's duty to fill out a fairly convoluted plot about what would happen if the president-elect died before the electoral college members officially cast their ballots. Only some of the characters are very interesting, and none are particularly complex.
Greenfield is at his best when he describes the news media covering the politics beat, and the novel is ultimately successful for its target audience of political news junkies. At times, the characters engage in unbelievable and dry conversation designed to let Greenfield speak directly to the reader and set up his various premises--but the language is exactly the sort of dull, mind-numbing analysis of minutiae that politics fans love to watch and spew. To that extent, one could say the book works as satire, but it is clearly not meant as such. Greenfield has written the kind of book he would like to read, I expect. Heavy on event-oriented plot and light on its stumbling and ineffective efforts at examining the people behind the story, the book is exactly like television news. If you enjoy CNN, give it a read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Levasseur on November 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
As I write this the Florida Recount is still ongoing (Fri. Nov. 10, 2000). Having read this book, I was not only entertained, I became knowledgeable about all the trivial information about the electoral college, which now looks to be far less trivial than it used to be.
In fact in a conversation about the possibilities in this election, a reletive mused aloud, "I wonder if anyone has considered what would happen if an elected president was killed before he could take office."... I immediatly cited this book.
If ever a work of fiction could be considered a must read. For now, this would be that book
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
I heard this book mentioned a number of times during that seemingly endless election we had not too long ago. I started out expecting yet another "political thriller"--Primary Colors left a bad taste in my mouth, and most other such books were spy novels disguised as political novels.
"The People's Choice" does suffer from some of those things that other political novels do. One glaring similarity is the number of characters used in the book. Nearly all political books feel the need to introduce dozens of characters, lest their campaign atmosphere seem inauthentic. TPC is no exception. No character is ever flushed out; before one is introduced, another one has to be rammed through so the author can get them all in. Greenfield is not alone in this; Primary Colors did it too.
Greenfield also suffers in his novel writing. One device I found particularly irritating was the sudden, if not exactly frequent, shifts from third to first person. They are cordoned off by chapter, thankfully, but some rather distracting "explanations and history lessons" are inadvertently added in. And, as other reviewers have pointed out, much of this info, and the dialogue from the characters, seems to be of the "hey! here's an interesting anecdote I learned in grad school! Let's work it in!" variety.
With all this, though, the book is pretty good. Admittedly, it gets better as you go along; the first chapter is appalingly bad; the second chapter is pretty good; and the third is excellent. Surprisingly, as the procedural mechanisms are slowly realized, the suspense gets better. It also has one of the most fun--if not believable--endings I've ever seen in such a book.
The book is done in fun, of course, but the facts are straight and presented nicely.
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