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The Phony Marine


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About the Author

Jim Lehrer served as a Marine Corps infantry officer in the 1950s. His father and brother were also marines. This is his sixteenth novel. He's also the author of two memoirs and three plays and is the executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his novelist wife, Kate. They have three daughters.


The uncharacteristically impulsive online purchase of a Silver Star medal once belonging to a marine lieutenant sets Hugo Marder, a successful middle-aged suit salesman at an upmarket Washington, D.C., store, on the path to his 15 minutes of fame in PBS's News Hour anchor Lehrer's 16th novel. Once Marder starts wearing the medal's accompanying lapel button in public, he receives deferential treatment from everybody he meets, spurring him to forge an alternate persona: he shaves his head, starts working out, trains himself to think the way he thinks a marine would think and, most importantly, learns to cuss. Things get hairy when he runs into his ex-wife, Emily, while on jury duty. She's on to his deception, but his heroic actions during a courthouse shooting propel him to instant fame. Ever ambitious, she attaches her wagon to his rising star and floats the idea of getting married again. As Hugo accumulates an ever larger entourage of admirers and his public stock rises, his conscience gets louder and louder. Lehrer, himself a former marine, does an admirable job of creating a pathetic yet sympathetic character in Hugo, though the supporting cast is emotionally anemic and exists solely to push Hugo along on his journey of self-discovery and self-deception. Lehrer's fans will appreciate his latest, but it may be too simple a yarn to attract new readers. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Hugo Marder excels as a salesman at an upscale Washington, DC, men's clothing store. Yet he goes unnoticed by those around him, even his ambitious ex-wife. As he turns 50, he mourns the death of his youthful dreams. Then one night, Hugo bids on eBay for a Silver Star pin in mint condition. It arrives; he places it on his lapel and goes for a walk. Now the people he meets treat him differently for the first time, others see Hugo as the hero he yearns to be. He remakes himself to match the medal, but his infatuation brings unforeseen consequences, including a one-time opportunity to be a real hero. In his 16th novel, Lehrer, anchor of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, keenly and eloquently observes human hopes and foibles: Hugo is in most respects like us but wants desperately to be more. The theme and mood here resemble Lehrer's lovely White Widow. Enthusiastically recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.] David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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