Cover image for Scandalmonger : a novel
Scandalmonger : a novel
Safire, William, 1929-2009.
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Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [2000]

Physical Description:
496 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
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In a fictional exploration of America's early political scandals, James Thomson Callender, a muckraking journalist, reveals scandals in the lives of both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

Author Notes

William Safire was born on Dec. 17, 1929. He attended Syracuse University, but dropped out after two years. He began his career as a reporter for The New York Herald Tribune. He had also been a radio and television producer and a U.S. Army correspondent. From 1955 to 1960, Safire was vice president of a public relations firm in New York City, and then became president of his own firm. He was responsible for bringing Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev together in 1959. In 1968, he joined the campaign of Richard Nixon as a senior White House speechwriter for Nixon. Safire joined The New York Times in 1973 as a political columnist. He also writes a Sunday column, On Language, which has appeared in The New York Times Magazine since 1979. This column on grammar, usage, and etymology has led to the publication of 10 books and made him the most widely read writer on the English language. William Safire was the winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. He is a trustee for Syracuse University. Since 1995 he has served as a member of the Pulitzer Board. He is the author of Freedom (1987), a novel of Lincoln and the Civil War. His other novels include Full Disclosure (1977), Sleeper Spy (1995) and Scandalmonger (2000). His other titles include a dictionary, a history, anthologies and commentaries.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Safire, a senior columnist for the New York Times and a widely read language authority, presents his latest politically drenched, densely rendered novel. He draws his material from an actual historical episode: the first great scandal to rock the not-yet-secure federal government in the early years of the republic. As the story opens, President Washington's treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, is being investigated for untoward financial behavior. To defuse the situation, he admits to sexual misconduct, and the business is basically buried. Subsequently one James Thomson Callender, a newspaper editor, enters the national political arena. Callender's philosophy is, "When [a person] once comes forward as a candidate for public administration--then, I say, his opinions, his motives, every action of his life, public or private, become the fair subject of public discussion." How many times have you heard that opinion debated recently? Callender aims to publicly expose Hamilton's scandalous behavior of a few years back. He is applauded in his efforts by the anti-Hamilton followers of Thomas Jefferson; but when Jefferson eventually becomes president, Callender's expectations of reward are not realized, and he turns to exposing some very deep secrets from Jefferson's past. For any who still believe that sexual scandalmongering is something new in Washington, D.C., or that bitter partisanship did not exist in those hallowed days of the Founding Fathers, or that First Amendment issues are something only we in the present day wrestle with, let them read this novel and think again. --Brad HooperAdult Books Young adult recommendations in this issue have been contributed by the Books for Youth editorial staff and by reviewers Sue-Ellen Beauregard, Jane Byczek, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, Sally Estes, Leone McDermott, Karen Simonetti, and Candace Smith. Titles recommended for teens are marked with the following symbols: YA, for books of general YA interest; YA/C, for books with particular curriculum value; YA/L, for books with a limited teenage audience; YA/M, for books best suited to mature teens.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Grammar maven, Pulitzer Prize-winner, novelist (Freedom) and erudite political columnist Safire delivers a sprawling, fact-based if somewhat stiffly written novel that will acquaint readers with several of the nation's first political scandals. In light of the recent White House brouhaha, it's fascinating to learn that in the days of the founding fathers, politicians were just as licentious and newspapermen even more scurrilous than some players in contemporary media. The narrative chronicles the career of James Thomson Callender, a Scottish immigrant pamphleteer whose sensational exposes of the private lives of public men destroyed reputations and altered the course of U.S. history. It is Callender who breaks the story about Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton that forces Hamilton to admit to adultery in order to protect his business reputation. Later, Callender is charged with sedition, for issuing "a statement intended to incite the hatred of the people toward their government leaders." But he is not deterred from subsequently disseminating the story of Thomas Jefferson's liaison with his slave, "Luscious Sally" Hemings, herself the offspring of Jefferson's wife's father and a mulatto slave. Meticulously recreating the stories and dialogue from diaries, newspaper accounts and court transcripts (there are several trials involving libel), Safire delivers nicely rounded portraits of Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Callender's own suspicious death closes the tale, a case of real life providing grist for melodrama. Always meticulous with facts, Safire adds an epilogue chronicling the fates of the major characters, followed by more than 50 pages of detailed notes and sources and a bibliography, all of which will be catnip to history buffs. Despite its heft, the novel moves along at a good clip, since Safire's use of short chapters, snippets of dialogue and frequent changes of scene creates narrative momentum. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A novel about chicanery in politics is nothing new, but Safire succeeds in taking it to an entirely different level. His Washington, DC, is that of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, but the scandal seems to be as contemporary as yesterday's news. The story is complex and often hard to follow, but it is based on actual diaries, letters, and reports researched by Safire; his language is meticulously authentic to the period. Washington is finishing his second term and is ready to turn over the government to Adams. Jefferson and Hamilton are at odds over the direction the new nation should take, and journalists such as James Callender are ready to stir up as much trouble as possible. When news of an affair between Hamilton and a married woman leaks out, the pamphleteers go wild, and the government is shaken, but this is just the introduction to a succession of scandals, including that involving Jefferson and his mistress, Sally Hemings. Political novels are always byzantine, and this one is no exception, but Safire is able to give our Founding Fathers realistic feet of clay. Narrator Paul Hecht, a veteran of Broadway and quality television programs, brings the right amount of decorum to the author's rich prose. Certain to be a popular item with readers looking for a satisfying literary experience. Joseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1792p. 11
Part I The Hamilton Scandalp. 47
Part II The Sedition Scandalp. 145
Part III The Jefferfon Scandalsp. 263
Part IV The Libel Scandalp. 371
Epilogue: What Happened Laterp. 431
The Underbook Notes and Sourcesp. 445
Bibliographyp. 489
Picture Creditsp. 495