A New York Times contributor offered the best take on blurbs. Maybe we should call in the Bureau of Consumer Protection. He was talking about “misblurbing” of existing book reviews, but original blurbs come with their own perils.
Just the same, as others have noted before, positives exist. Honest blurbs can be a useful form of, ‘If you like this, then maybe you’ll like that.” So I sought out three investigative types I know: well-regarded journalists who share my love of quality muck—and maybe your own fondness for it:
- James Fallows, who, besides having made a name for himself as an investigator, not just a commentator, is author of Breaking the News—in other words, a media expert well qualified to discuss newspaper memoirs, true or faux. Jim is a master of many topics, but I especially like his writings on government mismanagement, class issues and technology. His most recent book is Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China. Disclosure: I helped Jim with his Web site eons ago.
- James Polk, whom the Pulitzer jurors honored for his Watergate reporting for the Washington Star. Enjoy the scene where Jon Stone tries to sneak his story into the Washington Telegram? That was Jim’s suggestion to me, offered three decades ago. Jim saw early drafts of The Cover-Up, as we then called it, and encouraged me to write on.
- Bettina Gregory, the former ABC News correspondent, who, like Jim Polk, verified and picked up my reporting on the government office leasing program. She enlightened ABC viewers on The Case of the Missing Cafeteria—the $500,000+ facility that the Environmental Protection Agency was supposed to get from the landlord, who moved in Spiro Agnew’s circles.
The deal with three was, “Zap the file or toss out the galleys if the book sucks. I’m reconciled to the fact that not everyone will like Scandals.” What’s more, if the two Jims and Bettina were reviewing Scandals, I know they’d find flaws. Every novel has them, The Great Gatsby included. Still, I doubt that the three would want their names on this page if they didn’t believe in the book and what they wrote—it’s their reps at stake, too. Here, then, are the blurbs.
“The Solomon Scandals is a mordantly entertaining book that broadens the cast of the standard Washington novel beyond spymasters and politicians to include real estate barons and federal contract officers. David Rothman’s detailed knowledge of the D.C. scene comes through in his satire. Scandals is set in yesterday’s Washington, but is about truths behind today’s headlines—and about the troubled newspapers that publish the headlines.
“Like Boomsday and others of the best recent Washington novels, it amuses while broadening our understanding of how today’s government works—and doesn’t.”
“If only the cesspool of corruption Rothman plumbs so well in the past did not persist even today in Washington, where the first purpose of politics seems to remain the divvying up of spoils among secret cronies.”
“David Rothman’s bright, breezy, face-paced, and funny novel shines a merciless spotlight on greed, skulduggery and fraud within government, catching President Bullard like a deer in the headlights. But what resonates with me, as a long-time investigative journalist, is protagonist Jonathan Stone’s nightmare in getting his explosive findings into print. Seemingly the Washington Post hungered for every syllable Woodward and Bernstein could dig up on Watergate. However, it’s not always that easy. Stone’s fictional struggle to write and publish his expose is more than a shadow of the truth.”