Why Another Barbara Boxer Novel?

Barbara Boxer's debut 2005 novel, "A Time to Run," did not please the political right. The National Review called it "stupendously awful," full of "liberal pablum," a book that "sounds like a talking-points memo distributed by the DNC, a form of literature that is arguably a sub-genre of fiction."

Some non-partisan reviewers were less than generous, too. The Los Angeles Times wrote: "It is a passable political thriller of wishful thinking and wish fulfillment - Capitol Hill intrigue with the good guys (Boxer's Dems) winning."

The book, written with novelist Mary-Rose Hayes, did earn some good notices. Booklist said Boxer "brings an insider's knowledge of politics to this compelling novel of friendship, idealism, and corruption and the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into political deals."

Kirkus Reviews noted the likely audience reaction: "Short on subtlety and insider dish, this political page-turner will nevertheless rally the blue and annoy the red."

Several commentators went straight for the sex scenes, "the dirty bits," as the National Review put it. The Post's own Reliable Source writers Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts compared Boxer's "panting prose" with that of other politician novelists and rated Boxer above Jimmy Carter but below Newt Gingrich.

And then there was that scene, as the SF Weekly put it, of "two horses doing it. In language as poetic and moving as a Capitol Hill memo [Boxer] writes, '...these two fierce animals were coerced into their majestic coupling by at least six people.'"

Readers didn't exactly swarm the bookstores for the senator's debut title or jam up Amazon with orders. "A Time to Run" sold 8,980 copies in hardcover and 1,972 in paper, according to Nielsen BookScan.

But that isn't stopping Chronicle Books from reprising the adventures of Ellen Fischer, a liberal Democratic senator from California who fights the nation-threatening schemes of right wing ideologues and defends her own integrity against scurrilous attack. Boxer's second book, "Blind Trust," also written with Hayes, is set for release in August.

Chronicle is touting Boxer's new work as a "follow-up to her much-talked about debut novel," according to the promotional material. Asked about the first book's sales, publicist April Whitney said in an email that "the attitude here is that it sold in a respectable amount for a first-time novelist."

Chronicle has high hopes for the second installment. "The Senator brings more than just a name," Whitney said. "She was a reporter in the past and has years of political experience, which adds to the interest and relevance of the stories she tells. We think it is an enjoyable story that the public will want to read."

Publishers Weekly has given "Blind Trust" early guarded praise: Boxer "offers an insider's perspective to her agreeably told if far-fetched narrative. ... The big reveal is a little too out there, and the wrap-up is overly tidy, but Boxer and Hayes manage a fast-paced narrative."

I feel fairly confident in saying, You will not often find deep human insight in a novel written by a senator. You need only sit in any committee hearing to know that.

But don't take my word for it. If you've ever been uplifted, richly moved, repulsed, or just well-entertained by a politician's novel, let us know by posting a comment.

By Steven E. Levingston |  July 20, 2009; 5:30 AM ET Steven Levingston
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I thoroughly enjoyed--and learned from--President Carter's 2003 Revolutionary War novel, "The Hornet's Nest." It is, as far as I know, the first work of fiction by an American president. Carter's historical novel is set mostly in the Deep South, giving the reader a better feel for the role that region played in the war.

Leading up to the 1779 titular battle, Carter writes: "More than 1,300 new loyalists came out of the farms and woods of north Georgia and swore allegiance to the king, and were formed into twenty militia companies for the protection of British-held Georgia from South Carolina raids. For all practical purposes, there were now only twelve states. British officials honored Colonel Campbell as the first military commander to have "taken a stripe and star from the rebel flag of Congress." It seemed obvious that the Redcoats would soon take Chales Town and control South Carolina, and the British commanders were confident that only a mopping-up exercise would be necessary to assure a solid base for military moves northward into North Carolina and Virginia.//They considered themselves to be embarked on the final stages of the war."

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | July 20, 2009 2:18 PM

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