Picks and Pans Review: Primary Colors

updated 02/19/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Anonymous

What makes this novelized tale of Bill Clinton's bumpy 1992 run for the White House the hottest—and most unusual—whodunit of the season? Not the rollicking, roller-coaster plot nor the wicked skewerings of various thinly disguised big shots but the bedeviling mystery of whodunwroteit.

Harold Evans, the publishing executive who reportedly okayed a six-figure advance for the book, claims that even he doesn't know the identity of its author. Suspects include White House adviser George Stephanopoulos, who was awed by the book's uncanny accuracy; political strategist James Carville, who swears it ain't him; Mandy Grunwald, a Clinton camp vet who has been conspicuously silent; and New Yorker writer Jeffrey Frank, who shares an agent with Anonymous.

The hybrid story reads something like a cross between the late Theodore H. White's detailed accounts of presidential contests and novelist Tom Robbins's harebrained flights of fantasy. Henry Burton, the story's hero, is a brilliant (though fatally moral) young strategist hired to manage southern Gov. Jack Stanton's presidential candidacy. En route, Burton guides his boss through a slalom of challenges—among them a . powerful New York governor known as Oscillating Orlando Ozio because he can't decide whether or not to run (Mario Cuomo, anyone?) and Cashmere McLeod, a hairdresser who claims to have made some illicit whoopee with Stanton (a la Gennifer Flowers).

The dialogue is generally crude, rude and raucous—much like the patter of real pols in the heat of electoral battle. But though the story will be a hoot for fans of inside political baseball, the plot implodes (especially near the end) whenever Anonymous strays too far from fictionalized fact and tests his/her unpolished powers of literary invention. (Random House, $24)

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