From Publishers Weekly
The uncharacteristically impulsive online purchase of a Silver Star medal once belonging to a marine lieutenant sets Hugo Marder, a successful middle-aged suit salesman at an upmarket Washington, D.C., store, on the path to his 15 minutes of fame in PBS's News Hour
anchor Lehrer's 16th novel. Once Marder starts wearing the medal's accompanying lapel button in public, he receives deferential treatment from everybody he meets, spurring him to forge an alternate persona: he shaves his head, starts working out, trains himself to think the way he thinks a marine would think and, most importantly, learns to cuss. Things get hairy when he runs into his ex-wife, Emily, while on jury duty. She's on to his deception, but his heroic actions during a courthouse shooting propel him to instant fame. Ever ambitious, she attaches her wagon to his rising star and floats the idea of getting married again. As Hugo accumulates an ever larger entourage of admirers and his public stock rises, his conscience gets louder and louder. Lehrer, himself a former marine, does an admirable job of creating a pathetic yet sympathetic character in Hugo, though the supporting cast is emotionally anemic and exists solely to push Hugo along on his journey of self-discovery and self-deception. Lehrer's fans will appreciate his latest, but it may be too simple a yarn to attract new readers. (Nov.)
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In his spare time, Lehrer, PBS newsman and moderator extraordinaire, manages to be quite the prolific novelist. In his sixteenth novel, he levels his ever-composed gaze at the character^B and value of heroism. A men's clothing salesman, pudgy and relatively friendless, Hugo Marder is your garden-variety nobody, neither sympathetic nor entirely disagreeable. Until, that is, he buys a Vietnam-era Silver Star medal on eBay and decides to become a former marine. Sidestepping the tricky reality that he never was one, Hugo loses inches off his waistline, learns to comport himself with rigid assuredness, and gets comfortable dropping the "F-word" despite his innate discretion. He finds automatic admiration among strangers and relations alike but also lands himself in thorny spots where his status as war hero demands that he step up and display what mettle he may or may not possess. After saving a judge from a gun-toting assailant, an actual former marine, Hugo finds the spotlight all of a sudden quite bright, and he must reckon with what he has made himself into without the bothersome rigors of actual merit. Lehrer, whose prose is measured and unremarkable, considers the notion of heroism as a matter of circumstance (right time, right place) and whether it can be worn as a costume and hopefully thus learned to affect a dramatic transformation regardless of one's past failings or present deceptions. Ian ChipmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved