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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Time: Mark Salter wrote anonymous Obama novel 'O'

By Rachel Weiner

The "O" mystery is over, at least according to Time magazine.

Mark Halperin writes that the anonymous scribe behind this month's Obama novel is Mark Salter, a former aide to and speechwriter for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"As I've said for a week or more, I've been asked not to comment and I won't," Salter told The Post.

The New York Post first suggested that Salter was behind the book. "His adjective-filled style is similar to the 'O' author's," Page Six wrote. There are also critical depictions of Obama aides and some disparaging remarks about Sarah Palin.

A New York Magazine profile of McCain said: "After the chaos and dysfunction of the campaign, Salter made an important personal decision: He would continue to write speeches for McCain, and collect a check, but he would no longer fight McCain on political matters. He wanted to try his hand at writing fiction." But Salter told the Daily Beast he quickly gave up: "I didn't have the talent for it, and returned to more reliably lucrative speechwriting."

Halperin says he's confirmed the story with sources, but he also offers some clues. Among other things, "There is a story early in the book based on a real-life tale that would have been known only to a McCain campaign insider such as Salter."

Before the novel was released, publisher Jonathan Karp sent out a mass e-mail to journalists and politicos asking suspects not to confirm or deny any speculation.

Salter worked with McCain for over two decades and helped him write five books, including the memoir "Faith of My Fathers." The searing account of McCain's early life and captivity in Vietnam got positive reviews. "O," by contrast, got a cold reception. It "isn't as good as you hoped or as bad as you feared," according to The Post's relatively gentle review. The New York Times was less kind: "The author of 'O' is described on the book flap as someone who 'has been in the room with Barack Obama,' but given this novel's many inane implausibilities, the reader can't help but think that the writer was either a lousy observer or that the room was really enormous -- a hotel ballroom, perhaps, or maybe a convention center."

By Rachel Weiner  | January 27, 2011; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  White House  
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