Cover image for No way to treat a First Lady : a novel
No way to treat a First Lady : a novel
Buckley, Christopher, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2002]

Physical Description:
288 pages ; 25 cm
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Christopher Buckley, the bestselling author of the comic classicsThe White House MessandThank You for Smoking, returns to the funniest place in America: Washington, D.C. Elizabeth Tyler MacMann, the First Lady of the United States, has been charged with killing her philandering husband, the President of the United States. In the midst of a bedroom spat, she allegedly hurled a historic Paul Revere spittoon at him, with tragic results. The attorney general has no choice but to put the First Lady on trial for assassination. The media has never warmed to Beth MacMann (her nickname in the tabloids is "Lady Bethmac"), and as America girds for a scandalous, sensational trial, Beth reaches out to the only defense attorney she trusts, Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, who charges $1,000 an hour and has represented a Who's Who of scoundrels: murderous running backs, society wife-killers, Los Alamos spies, and national-security sellouts. Why Boyce Baylor? Because Beth loved him once, when they were law students. Boyce wanted to marry her, but Beth chose the future President instead. Now, after all these years, Boyce has a second chance. To what lengths will a shameless lawyer go to win the Trial of the Millennium and regain the love of his life? Buckley has been described by theLos Angeles Times Book Reviewas "one of the best and surest political humorists in America" and byEntertainment Weeklyas "a superb writer of politically incorrect satire."No Way to Treat a First Ladyis flat-out hilarious. And furthermore, it's a love story for our time.

Author Notes

Christopher Buckley was born December 24, 1952. He is an American political satirist and the author of novels including God Is My Broker, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, The White House Mess, No Way to Treat a First Lady, Wet Work, Florence of Arabia, Boomsday, Supreme Courtship, and, most recently, Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir. He is the son of William F. Buckley Jr. and Patricia Buckley.

Buckley, like his father, graduated from Yale University, as a member of Skull and Bones. He became managing editor of Esquire Magazine and later worked as the chief speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush. This experience led to his novel The White House Mess, a satire on White House office politics and political memoirs.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Forbes FYI columnist Buckley knows Washington politics and uses them to good effect in this outrageous and witty whodunit. When philandering President Ken MacMann is found dead, his bossy wife, Beth, irreverently dubbed Lady Bethmac by the press, is charged with his murder. To represent her, Beth hires her law school sweetheart Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, known for getting even the most deplorable defendants acquitted. Trouble is, the new White House definitely wants to put Lady Bethmac in her place, and what better way than with a guilty verdict? If all of these characters sound familiar, just wait until you meet the ineffectual VP who succeeds MacMann; the groveling, power-hungry journalists who run with rumors; the plethora of defense attorneys acting as talking heads; and the courtroom judge who just wants to come out of the case not looking like a fool. Thankfully, Boyce and Beth turn out to be adequately likable characters whose personas are more media-made than true to life. A wild romp of silliness and irreverence that's sure to please political junkies. Mary Frances Wilkens

Publisher's Weekly Review

Matheson brings all the skills one would expect of an experienced actor to Buckley's latest romp. In a story that's equal parts satire and courtroom drama, Buckley (Thank You for Smoking) slings barbs at lawyers, politicos and Washington's social elite. After President Ken MacMann returns from a lusty night in the Lincoln Bedroom with actress Babette Van Anka, his wife, Elizabeth, hurls insults and a priceless Paul Revere spittoon at him. When MacMann is found dead the next morning with the word "Revere" embossed on his forehead, the first lady becomes the prime suspect. Buckley lays his cards openly on the table: one lawyer is nicknamed "Shameless," while another's last name is Crudman. And Matheson captures them all, whether rendering Shameless Baylor's mock indignation at being refused a preposterous motion or evoking the arrogant commentary on a show called Hard Gavel. He also does excellent turns as the flighty, would-be Middle East peace activist Van Anka, a host of other witnesses and the no-nonsense judge who tries to keep the Trial of the Millennium in check. This may not be the year's most substantive audio, but with a plot that seems just crazy enough to be true and a crisp performance by Matheson, it never fails to entertain. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Forecasts, July 29). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The first lady of Buckley's latest satire (after Little Green Men and Thank You for Smoking) is Elizabeth "Lady Beth Mac" MacMann, wife of President Kenneth Kemble MacMann. Kenneth, whose morals are as unreliable as a granny knot, meets an untimely death two and half years into his first term. Indicted for his murder, Elizabeth hires as her defender the one and only Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, to whom she had once been affianced. Elizabeth doesn't wear the widow's weeds long before she and her hotshot legal adviser get together for some unprotected fun in bed, with unintended but not unusual results. In strict story terms, the novel is a long tease-how many witnesses and how much testimony do we have to hear before finding out what really happened that fateful night in September? But it's worth the wait. The book is shot through with a particularly mordant vein of social satire and mocks the ludicrousness of modern life, something to which we've become numb. This should be on your list, near the top. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.]-A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 His secretary announced simply, "It's her." There was no ambiguity as to who "her" might be, not after the force twelve media storm of the previous weeks. The country was convulsed. Seven-eighths of the nation's front pages and the evening news was devoted to it. If war had broken out with Russia and China, it might have made page two. "Shameless" Baylor had spent much of the previous seventeen days wondering if Beth MacMann would have the balls to call him. He was, at age not quite fifty, the top trial attorney in the country. He had been the first lawyer to charge $1,000 per hour, which--for too long--had been considered the unbreakable sound barrier of legal billing. There were half a dozen second-best trial attorneys each of whom, naturally, considered him- or herself the top trial attorney in the country. But none of them had been simultaneously on the covers of all three weekly newsmagazines, none had been portrayed in movies by a famous British actor pretending to be American. None owned a professional baseball team. And, to be sure, none had been married and divorced four times. The previous record had stood at three. That he had any assets left after such serial marital wreckage was perhaps the greatest testament to his courtroom skills. He hadn't been baptized "Shameless." In fact, up to the moment he set out to become the best trial attorney in the country he had been the soul of decency, what used to go by the name of "Christian gentleman," a veritable poster boy for all that is good and sunny in human nature. His real name was Boyce, and at his baptism, his godparents firmly rejected Satan on his behalf. The rejection lasted until an event that occurred to him just before he graduated from law school. The nickname had been given to him by a federal judge early in Boyce's controversial career, after he had persuaded a jury that his client, the Cap'n Bob Fast Fish Restaurant chain, was unaware that its popular Neptune Burgers were made from black market Japanese whale meat. Since that stunning victory, Boyce had successfully defended traitors, terrorists, inside traders, politicians, mobsters, blackmailers, polluters, toxic-waste dumpers, cheats, insurance frauds, drug dealers, horse dopers, televangelists, hucksters, society wife batterers, cybermonopolists, and even fellow lawyers. An eminent legal scholar who wore bow ties commented on public television that if Shameless Baylor had defended Adolf Eichmann after he had been kidnapped and brought to Israel and tried for crimes against humanity, Eichmann would have been not only acquitted, but awarded damages. It was not said admiringly. But if Boyce's fame had long since reached the point where shoeshine men in airports asked for his autograph, the public was largely unaware of the actual motivation for his remarkable career. And now--a quarter century after his career began--his phone rang. He reached for the button, then paused. He thought of telling the secretary to tell her to call back. Sometimes he put new clients through a ten- or fifteen-minute wait before picking up. Softened them up. Made them all the more eager. Should he, to her? No. He had waited twenty-five years. He was too impatient to begin this beguine. He felt the kettledrum in his chest. Good Lord. Was his pulse actually quickening? He, who never broke a sweat, even while arguing before the Supreme Court? He picked up. "Hello, Beth. What've you been up to?" This was nonchalance carried to operatic heights. "I need to see you, Boyce." Her voice was all business. Cool as a martini, no more emotion than a flight attendant telling the passengers to put their seats in the upright position. He'd have preferred a little more raw emotion, frankly, even a stifled gasp or sob. Some clients, even burly men who could break your jaw with one lazy swipe of their paws, broke down the first time they spoke to him. Boyce kept a box of tissues in his office, like a shrink. One new client, the head of a plumbers union who had been taped by the FBI on the phone ordering the car bombing of a rival, had blubbered like an eight-year-old. He later blamed it on medication. But even now, placing a call that must have humiliated her, Beth was in her own upright position, not a trace of begging or desperation in her voice. Boyce stiffened. His pulse returned to normal. Okay, babe, you want to play it cool? I'll see your thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit and lower you five. "I could see you tomorrow at ten-thirty," he said. "For half an hour." It had been a long time since anyone had said something like that to Beth MacMann. The two of them began the mental countdown to see who would blink first. . . . seven . . . eight . . . nine . . . "Fine," she said. "Will you be taking the shuttle?" He'd be damned if he'd send his own jet to pick her up. "No, Boyce. I'll be driving. I don't relish the thought of being stared at for an hour on the shuttle." As a former First Lady, she retained Secret Service protection, another of the ironies in which she and the nation found themselves: prosecuted by the government, protected by the government. A Times columnist had mischievously posed the question: If in the end Beth MacMann was executed, would there be a shoot-out between the Secret Service and the lethal injectionist? So many delicious questions were being posed these days. "Ten-thirty, then." Boyce leaned back in his leather throne and imagined the spectacle in all its many-pixeled splendor: hundreds of TV cameras and reporters outside his Manhattan office, clamoring, aiming their microphones like fetish sticks as the Secret Service phalanxed her through to the door. And there he would be standing, gorgeously, Englishly tailored, to greet her. His face would be on every television set in the world tomorrow. Peasants in Uzbekistan, ozone researchers in Antarctica, Amish farmers in Pennsylvania would recognize him. He would issue a brief, dignified, noncommittal statement to the effect that this was only a preliminary meeting. He would smile, thank the media for its interest--Boyce was the Siegfried and Roy of media handlers--and usher her in. How satisfying it would be, after all these years. They were already calling it "the Trial of the Millennium," and there he would be, at the red hot center of it. And maybe--just maybe--to make his revenge perfect, he would deliberately lose this one. But so subtly that even the Harvard Law bow tie brigade would hem and haw and say that no one, really, could have won this one, not even Shameless Baylor. Excerpted from No Way to Treat a First Lady: A Novel by Christopher Buckley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.