Picks and Pans Review: Tell It to the King

updated 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Larry King with Peter Occhiogrosso

Don't be scared off by that incoherent, presumptuous neogossip column Larry King writes for USA Today. In his books (this is his second), King does what he does best on his radio and TV shows, namely, he gets argumentative and tells stories. He recalls Robert McNamara telling him (off the air) about John F. Kennedy's asking the name of an attractive secretary during the Cuban missile crisis because he wanted to be ready just in case: "We may avoid war here tonight," Kennedy explained. King also remembers a Nelson Rockefeller aide quoting Rockefeller as saying, in all sincerity, "I know what it is to be a workingman. I know what it is to make a hundred, a hundred twenty-five thou a year." King's rambling stories, often strung together by "And speaking of..."transitions, are divided into chapters on entertainers, politicians and sports figures. He devotes a chapter to interviewing: "Good questions start with the words Why or How." A good ear helps. King recalls a speech at Washington's men-only Alfalfa Club, where Ronald Reagan mentioned the "wonderful publicity" President Carter got in 1980 for staying in a Hispanic home. "When I spent the night in a Hispanic home," Reagan joked, "nobody covered it. I had the same compassion...and Ricardo Montalban thanked me very much for coming." King partly dedicates the book, written last year while he recovered from a heart attack, to Tammy Haddad, the crackerjack producer of his CNN talk show. But like the Alfalfa Club, this book is male dominated. Even when he mentions his current romantic interest, Angie Dickinson, King says she's interesting but provides no evidence to that effect. There are also too many baseball anecdotes. King, though, has an enthusiasm he and co-writer Occhiogrosso exploit, giving the book a hearty, conversational tone. "I've always had some affection for the performer, even when he was a son of a bitch," King says, and he generates that brand of affection himself. (Putnam's, $16.95)

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