Picks and Pans Review: Fan Mail

updated 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Ronald Munson

Letters have long been the stuff of literature, but Munson, a University of Missouri professor, brings the style into the electronic age with this novel about an obsessive fan stalking a TV newswoman.

As the new face on Nightbeat, Joan Carpenter becomes the target of the "watcher," whose bizarre letters promising to make her a star escalate into violent acts that send the show's ratings through the roof. The twist is that the story is told exclusively through faxes, phone conversations, answering-machine messages, memos and E-mail.

This stylistic device is astonishingly engaging and, while the exchanges are sometimes too glib, the main players feel genuine. Fan Mail is a bonbon of a book whose underlying theme—the increasing isolation of modern society—is fast becoming a "fax" of life. (Dutton, $20.00)

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