By Betsy Rothstein - 06/06/05 12:00 AM EDT
Potomac Beach starts out promisingly — the title suggests fun beach trash with plenty of insider revelations about Capitol Hill — but then you start reading.
The author is Eron Shosteck, ex-aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and the novel centers on a fictional character, Rep. Charles Lattan (R-Idaho), who is old, out of shape and wears a plastic smile beneath a combover.
Lattan has other problems (he has no soul), is neurotic (he unravels as the book wears on) and he can’t hold his drink (after a scotch or two he slurs his words and hits on interns).
The novel is set against the backdrop of former President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and several anti-Democratic rants are thrown in for good measure: Lattan says, “This president is a goddamn sleazebag who’s sleeping with interns young enough to be his daughter.”
Lattan himself is an ex-plumber, new to politics and Capitol Hill, who is seduced by the power and prestige of being a lawmaker and having aides cater to him. He’s not that bright and needs much handholding by his aides whom he nevertheless disdains; he refers to his campaign manager as the “Fat Bastard.”
Anyone who has spent much time on Capitol Hill has come across lawmakers who seem out of touch. So to that extent, the book is an accurate portrayal. But from an ex-aide, one hopes to pick up at least a few fresh insights.
Instead, the author notes Larry King’s propensity to shower guests with softball questions, and the reader is offered stale aphorisms such as, “Spend too much time on the campaign trail, and you start believing your own press releases. Spend too much time around your staff, and you start believing you’re a born leader.”
It is pretty laborious stuff, not enlivened by the overuse of exclamation points; just before he goes on King’s show, as a young female aide tries to prep him, he says to himself, “A 22-year-old advising him! Congressman Charles Lattan! I know the issues, young lady!”