Picks and Pans Review: Father's Day

updated 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by John Calvin Batchelor

Two Presidents? Bill and Hillary jokes aside, veteran thriller-scribe Batchelor (The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica) has fashioned a provocative page-turner out of the very real possibility of an America with dual—and dueling—heads of state.

The motor that makes his plot run is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. If a disabled Chief Executive seeks to return to the job, says the law, the acting President (the Vice President) can challenge his fitness—with the consent of the Cabinet and Congress.

So, in the year 2003, when liberal President Ted Jay suffering from clinical depression, seeks to come back to the Oval Office after five months, ruthless Vice President "Shy" Garland has no intention of returning the keys.

Which one is the President? In a taut tale that ranges from an Army outpost in Rumania to "black" operations in the Pentagon, Batchelor offers a convincing battle of the Presidents. Along the way, much of the fun comes in trying to match Batchelor's fictional creations with real-life Washington counterparts. Who is most like Bill Clinton? Nancy Reagan? Bob Haldeman? That pleasure is heightened by the antics of the characters. Garland mounts a murderous public and private attack on the fragile Jay. But the "real" President has his own counterpunch. This battle of heavyweights, which is resolved on Father's Day, offers enough intrigues and twists to satisfy any Beltway conspiracy buff. (Holt, $23)

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