Read Scandalmonger: A Novel by William Safire Online


A presidential hopeful has taken a beautiful, vulnerable woman as his mistress, though both are married to others. His rival for the presidency of the United States has even more sensational secrets to guard about his own past. An ambitious journalist unearths the stories of the private lives of both, and he hefts in his hand what he calls "the hammer of truth." The timeA presidential hopeful has taken a beautiful, vulnerable woman as his mistress, though both are married to others. His rival for the presidency of the United States has even more sensational secrets to guard about his own past. An ambitious journalist unearths the stories of the private lives of both, and he hefts in his hand what he calls "the hammer of truth." The time is the end of the eighteenth century. The political figures whose intimate lives are about to be revealed are Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. The journalist out to shape the course of the young nation's history is "that scurrilous scoundrel Callender," the fugitive from Scottish sedition law who pioneered the public exposure of men in power. The women he makes famous are the mysterious Maria Reynolds and the slave Sally Hemings. The novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire brings these real characters in our history to life. He recounts the dramatic clash of the Founders and the first journalists -- drawn from actual events of the nation's beginnings -- that has special relevance for our time. Scandalmonger is dramatized history at its best and presidential politics at its most fascinating. For those who think that Washington sex scandals and lurid journalism are recent developments, this novel will be a revelation, for Safire shows vividly how media intrusiveness into private lives -- and politicians' cool manipulation of the press -- are as old as the Constitution. The "scandalmonger" of the title is James Thomson Callender, a writer with a poisonous quill pen who is secretly on the payroll of Vice President Jefferson. When Callender publishes documents leaked to him about a secret Congressional investigation into Treasury Secretary Hamilton's financial dealings, Hamilton counters with a confession of an affair with the blackmailing Mrs. Reynolds -- admitting to a sin but not a crime. Callender's scathing newspaper attacks on Hamilton and on President John Adams as a "hoary-headed incendiary" so incensed the Federalists in power that they enacted the Sedition Act to crush freedom of speech. The scandalmonger was convicted and jailed, but his widely reported martyrdom after an unfair trial angered many voters and helped to sweep the Jeffersonians into power. The new President pardoned his partisan publicist but refused to reward him -- indeed, cut him off in favor of less divisive supporters. Broke and betrayed, Callender set out to wreak vengeance on his former hero by breaking the story of Jefferson's fathering of children with his slave Sally Hemings -- an account that would be scornfully disbelieved until largely authenticated by DNA evidence almost two centuries later. Central to the story of Scandalmonger is the enigmatic allure of Maria Reynolds, a haunting adventuress who in real life bedazzled both Hamilton and his arch-enemy, Aaron Burr, and, in this novel, attracted the reviled scandalmonger as well. Much of the dialogue of Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe is drawn from their letters. The accounts of libel and sedition trials to suppress the opinions of Callender and his bombastic newspaper antagonist, "Peter Porcupine," are accurate. Hamilton's passionate and ironic defense of freedom of the press is true (although the notes of his speech were fleshed out by Safire, a former White House speechwriter). In a unique "Underbook," the author scrupulously sets forth his scholarly sources, separating fiction from dramatized history -- and in so leveling with the reader, truly re-creates the passionate controversies of an era that presages our times....

Title : Scandalmonger: A Novel
Author :
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ISBN : 9780743212052
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 496 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Scandalmonger: A Novel Reviews

  • Sarah (Presto agitato)
    2019-02-18 02:34

    There is potential in this story, a novel that focuses on the individuals involved in the pamphlet wars of early American politics. The founders provided plenty of material for the scurrilous pens of people like James Thomson Callender and William "Peter Porcupine" Cobbett. They were venomous about both the political and the personal. Callender outed Hamilton's affair with Maria Reynolds and attacked Washington and Adams, at times with the secret financial backing of Jefferson. Later, however, he vengefully turned on his former patron, revealing Jefferson's attempt to seduce a friend's wife and his relationship with Sally Hemings. Libel and sedition actions were prosecuted against writers and politicians on both sides, sometimes resulting in jail sentences. The law and the meaning of freedom of the press were far from settled, making this a tumultuous time in the history of journalism.There is a lot of historical material to work with, but unfortunately Safire can't seem to shake a pedantic need to lecture the reader and even the characters. They seem slightly more realistic when using passages quoted from actual letters, but it takes more than using the text from letters and presenting it as dialogue to turn history into historical fiction. Safire's habit of awkwardly defining words for the reader, in case we need help, doesn't do much for believability either. This book also has one of the worst cases of As You Know Bob-ism that I have ever seen. Alexander Hamilton, one of the most noted attorneys of the day, is apparently a little rusty on the common law for libel. Luckily, the lawyer working with him on the famous People v. Croswell libel trial is around to let him know that "Blackstone defines libel as 'any scandalous publication that tends to breach the peace.'" Characters even as-you-know-bob themselves. On the way to an illicit and adulterous meeting with Maria Reynolds, Hamilton put some money in his pocket and "envisioned the day when banknotes would be issued throughout the nation by the United States Bank, backed by the full faith and credit of the Federal government, and not issued pell-mell by local banks that were all too often on the brink of insolvency." Hamilton's partner in the libel trial later gives himself a clairvoyant lecture, reflecting that if they don't win the case, "perhaps Hamilton's argument would be taken up by the State legislature and the law would be changed." With all of this punctiliousness, there is a strange imprecision on other topics. The number of states is misstated more than once. The character Samuel Chase, in discussing the sedition law, mentions the Virginia resolution, saying it "was rejected by all the other thirteen states, excepting Kentucky." I'm not sure if he means there are thirteen total states or fourteen, but Kentucky was the fifteenth state. In any case, by the time the sedition act was passed in 1798 there were sixteen.In discussing the election of 1800, a significant event both historically and in the novel, the number of states is also muddled. That election resulted in an electoral tie between Jefferson and Burr, so the House of Representatives had to vote by state to determine the President. Safire writes, "Each of the thirteen States had one vote, with nine required to elect. Gallatin knew he had only eight States lined up for Jefferson...the process was frozen at eight States for Jefferson, six for Burr." So were there thirteen states? Fourteen? Nope, still sixteen. I did appreciate some of what Safire calls the "Underbook." This is essentially an extended "Notes" section with more background on some of the history. For the most part, it's basically like most note sections, although it is admittedly unusual in fiction. The section on the Reynolds scandal contains material that I haven't seen referenced elsewhere. In particular, the discussion of Julian Boyd's (somewhat off-the-wall) theory that Hamilton forged Maria's letters and the reference to Grotjan's memoir that mentions Maria Reynolds' later life led me to some other interesting reading. Overall it would have been a much better novel if some of the more pedantic historical statements had been taken out of the characters' mouths and heads and put in the notes. Fiction is better when it's given a little room to breathe and the reader is trusted to figure it out.

  • Daniel Polansky
    2019-01-23 03:48

    Anther stoop book, and in retrospect I’d have been better of leaving it there. A novelization about the muckrakers who came to prominence in the first few years of America’s history, and their effects on and interaction with the great men of the age. It’s a fascinating episode badly treated. Safire’s fictionalization of the events, to my mind, offers the worst of both possible worlds. Most of the text consists of fake dialogue cribbed from the letters of the major characters, and so it sounds overly formal and jarring. But here and there Safire feels comfortable departing abruptly from history, inserting (to my count) two ahistoric love affairs and a murder. Essentially, any time anything interesting happened in the book I would flip to the end to inevitably discover that it was something Safire had whole-cloth invented. There are interesting things that have been done blurring the boundaries between fiction and fact (Simon Schama attempted something similar with Dead Certainties etc. but Safire doesn’t do them. Better off grabbing one of the many readable histories of the era if you're interested.

  • Brian
    2019-02-01 06:29

    Usually I am skeptical of "historical novels" or "docu-dramas." The authors usually do NOT intend to separate fact from fiction and, but choose to cloud their story to present something closer to what they "would have liked to have really happened" so that it fits within their ideology. Accuracy be damned! Such is the arrogance of many of today's history story-tellers. A popular example of this is Oliver Stone. William Safire approaches things differently. He has done his homework and actually knows his subject intimately. He has done meticulous research and reading and knows how to tell a story. His fans can expect a thought provoking and intelligent discussion that will stem from Safire's trademark word-wrangling."Scandalmonger" pours old wine into new skins. Much of the back-story and characters are familiar to any student of American history--amateur or professional (read the above discription). The time period is known but perhaps forgetten. Safire attempts and succeeds in "fleshing-out" the history. He insures that much of the dialogue is actual phrases and vocabulary that wold have been used, because he lifts it directly from documents and letters of Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton and others, for example. Safire only introduces their words within the proper context of the scene, though he does take advantage of dramatic license to manipulate the dialogue to suit the context."So what?" you say, because you understand that many "docu-drama-ists" do the same thing. True, but here lies the catch: Instead of a mere disclaimer at the beginning of a story which is forgotten by the reader/viewer later (which Safire does write), he details page by page, chapter by chapter what is fact--supported by the documentation--and what is imagination. He does not hide the use of fiction for his own ideologies and admits when he is fabricating the scene or dialogue or character. But, like a good storyteller, he understands that these fictional elements assist the story. They fill in the "historical gaps" so to speak.Any student of history has read a history book they felt was dry. It cannot be avoided within the intellectual field of study. Historians that survive and are successful--and are re-read--are those that possess the talent for telling a vivid story and bringing the story to life for the reader. They adhere to the root of history, that is "to tell a story." To make history dry and only for the university elite, defeats the purpose of history, which is for it to be remembered and heeded by all. "Scandalmonger" tells the story as it could be told today. It may not be history, but I believe it could be close. The credibility in this opinion is because of Mr. Safire's devotion to accuracy and his use of extensive documentation. Perhaps a theme within this story is that America has not grown up that much in 200 years. The press will still take to task hypocrite politicians, the public will lap it up and criticize themselves, but continue to forgive their leaders. The politicians feel they are above the moral accountability and continue to be corruptible. And good leaders, fearing the "scandalmongering" will fear running for office and the world will be left with mediocrity in their leadership.

  • Lewis Resnick
    2019-02-10 01:50

    Good book. Well worth reading or listening to. The recorded version is very well performed. The book is rather long but manages to stay interesting. I experience its weakness as these: Some of the characters are not well drawn so it's hard to distinguish one person from another, at least not until they have come up repeatedly. There are more characters than in a Russian novel which compounds that issue.The novel does give much detail about what went on, frequently on a week-by-week to month-by-month basis in the first 10 years of the American democracy and helps understand the history of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In this it is outstanding.

  • Tony
    2019-02-22 00:34

    Safire has done his homework, creating a fictionalized version of the Pamphleteers accounts of political events and scandals circa 1800 in the U.S. A little slow but interesting to read about the accounts of criminal trials during the time of the Sedition Act. American history fanatics will savor every paragraph of this well written historical fiction that's filled with mostly facts.

  • Toni
    2019-02-14 05:21

    From a reader's standpoint, this novel may be a bit dry at first, but the ironies and surprised revealed in the private and not so private lives of these historical figures makes up for that. Mr. Safire bases his story on historical documents and dialogues and states that most of what his characters say can be accepted as true. Beginning with Alexander Hamilton's affair with Maria Reynolds which Hamilton admitted to in order not to be charged with speculating with government securities to Thomas Jefferson and Sally's all there. In "The Hamilton Affair," some expressed surprise that Hamilton would let his personal reputation be ruined rather than allow his professional integrity to be compromised. "The voting public will never elect an adulterer to office," one says. Oh no...never. President Adams excuses the affair by saying Hamilton "suffers from a superabundance of excretions." Perhaps some of today's politicians should remember that one. Whatever the reason, it Either way, it effectively ended Hamilton's political career and his hopes for the presidency.The catalyst running through the story is Callendar, a Scots journalist, the scandalmonger of the title. Though the author states the affair Callendar has with Maria Reynolds is fictional, it seems the lady seduced everyone else, sleeping with Hamilton and his some-day murderer Aaron Burr at the same time, and several others. In fact, it's suggested Hamilton's death at Burr's hand was really suicide by duello.The novel ends with Callendar's revelation of Jefferson's association with his slave Sally Hemmings. IApparently many people in Virginia were aware of this and giving their rationalization (Jefferson told his wife on her deathbed he'd never marry again, so he turned to Sally for consolation. After all, Sally was his wife's half-sister through her father and was therefore three-quarters white, so...) An abundance of children calling Sally "Mother" and having Jefferson's red hair did nothing to squelch Callendar's accusations. History and modern DNA testing have justified the scandalmonger on that one.Each page seems stuffed with revelations, accusations, and enough scandals and cover-ups for several novels. Indeed, it makes one wonder how they had time to devote to the actual running of the government with all these intrigues, back-stabbing, and subterfuges going on.This novel will definitely reveal that those men we've always considered so noble and self-sacrificing had feet of clay up to their knees. They lie, cheat, steal, envy, gossip, and occasionally if nor murder, at least incite others to it, with the best of them. No dignified gentleman wearing knee breeches and powdered wigs, looking calm as they sign the Declaration of Independence, but men who make up the first deportation laws to rid themselves of immigrant journalists opposing their point of view (like James Callendar), and help ruin the political careers of those they can't get rid of (such as Matthew Lyon who became the first Congressman arrested under the Alien and Sedition Act). Here are their opinions in their own words, giving a narrative tweak by the author, proving the Founding Fathers were anything but fatherly, and those that were might've had the best intentions but went about proving it the wrong way. It's a story that will make everyone more thoughtful than ever as they consider whatever the current political situation.This novel was read as a library rental and no remuneration was involved in the writing of this review.

  • Ron Charles
    2019-01-23 03:24

    William Safire doesn't pull any punches. In his new book, he quotes the clerk of the House of Representatives dismissing one of the most famous presidential hopefuls: "A man who carried on with a whore in his own home when his wife was away? And then brought shame on his wife and children by confessing to it publicly? Never!"We can hardly blame Safire for leaking this juicy outrage. After all, it's already 200 years old."Scandalmonger" is a smart, rollicking dramatization of the scandals that shook Thomas Jefferson's administration and barred Alexander Hamilton from becoming president. History has never been so much fun. Almost all the dialogue, like the clerk's comment above, is constructed from surviving letters, diaries, speeches, and essays. The result is like pressing your ear to the door of America's most dynamic decade. "My dirty little secret is that I used to be a speechwriter," the former Nixon aide confesses.In this meticulously footnoted novel, the similarities between President Clinton's challenges and those that beset the Founding Fathers are sometimes striking, sometimes even comic. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist insists that wasn't his design."I didn't go into this book saying, 'OK, I'm going to write a book about the previous scandals that will illustrate the current ones,' " he says during a recent interview at Simon & Schuster. "I got into it because I was interested in 'Peter Porcupine,' William Cobbett, the critic, the first media giant."Safire eventually decided to focus his novel on Cobbett's archrival, James Callender, an incendiary journalist and editor fleeing from Scotland. Callender alternately flattered and tormented America's Founding Fathers for 10 years before his mysterious drowning in 1803.Safire's investigation into Callender's life led him to the exposs of Hamilton and Jefferson. "At that point," he says, "the vividness of the comparison struck me because Jefferson is William Clinton's middle name."Pressed to acknowledge the striking echo of Clinton's troubles with the press, the venerable word maven raises his voice in mock indignation: "I had my head in the 18th century! That's why I put the notes in the back," he laughs, "for someone who says, 'Oh, he's straining now to make it look like it's all the same,' or 'everybody did it.'"Fortunately, the academic baggage has been stowed in an "underbook" that advises interested readers about the accuracy of every scene and reference. "I like that approach," he says, "particularly in a time of docu-dramas and 'faction' rather than 'fiction,' where you get confused about what happened and what didn't. In my books, and this one in particular, I say, 'This is the history and this is the twistery - the addition that I make so that the reader can read the book as a novel."A novel historySafire's most significant ahistorical twist in "Scandalmonger" is the invention of a romance between Callender and Maria Reynolds, the woman at the center of the calumny that derailed Hamilton's presidential ambitions.Secretly encouraged by Vice President Jefferson, Callender rabidly pursued claims of Hamilton's alleged profiteering after the Revolutionary War. In order to defend his integrity and the national financial system he had designed, Hamilton was forced to confess to an affair with Mrs. Reynolds that explained - Callender claimed obscured - his peculiar financial arrangements.At the suggestion of his editor, Safire pursued this woman and made her affection for Callender, the nation's most outraged and outrageous journalist, the spine of his novel."As a historian, I didn't have much to work with," he confesses, "because all the historians at the time either dismiss her as a 'blackmailing whore' or say she was a 'mysterious woman about which little is known.'"During his research, however, he discovered a brief description of Mrs. Reynolds in the memoir of a Philadelphia merchant who met her a few years after the scandal. "That fleshed out the character, if you'll pardon the expression," he grins.In the novel, Safire has cleverly retained her coy nature. While she's affectionate and genteel, she manages men effectively enough to leave a degree of ambiguity about her real nature. Pairing the object of Hamilton's affections with the journalist determined to expose those affections proves a clever way of focusing what is sometimes a thicket of historical details.Congress shall make no law ...The novel's real subject and the one closest to Safire's heart is the freedom of the press, a liberty that evolved haphazardly and was almost snuffed out by President Jefferson's efforts to silence Callender.Infuriated by the new president's inadequate payment for his scandalmongering stories, Callender turned on his old patron with a vengeance and dragged the nation through salacious stories about Jefferson's affair with one of his slaves."Politicians who were in opposition were desperate to defend the right to dissent publicly. But as soon as they got into positions of power and felt the lash of dissent, they turned around and tried to stop it," Safire says.As his novel makes clear, government efforts to restrict the press's freedom are fraught with tyrannical potential. Safire, like Hamilton before him, prefers to risk putting the press in the public's hands. "When the poking into private lives goes too far and there's a public revulsion at it and editors or broadcasters or cable operators realize that it's costing them readers, they'll change."But for 200 years, American newspapers have proven the sad practicality of Callender's method: People are as quick to condemn intrusions into private life as they are to read those intrusions. "I defended Gary Hart when he was tracked down and - he feels - entrapped," Safire says, "and I defended Bob Packwood when I felt he was unfairly attacked. I'm bipartisan in my feeling about privacy."Today, Safire sees the media's freedom more threatened by consolidation than government restraint. "I'm antimerger, by nature," he says, acknowledging the irony of working for The New York Times, one of the nation's leading media consolidators. "The constant reduction in the number of choices people have to make is a danger.""The counter to it," he claims, "is that the Internet allows hundreds of thousands of people to publish, and you don't have to have a heavy capital investment in order to express yourself. The Internet is today's version of the pamphleteers" of Callender's day.But even the World Wide Web can't compete with the speed or spark of Callender's 200-year-old pen. "With that combination of good reporting and innate viciousness, I don't think anybody quite matches him today," Safire says.

  • Emily
    2019-02-23 01:36

    Pamphleteers. Gossip rags. Nothing much changes. Hamilton and Jefferson at their worst.

  • Alex
    2019-02-16 03:30

    In the context of fiction, even if nominally "historical" fiction, I can excuse a lot, but not everything.I can excuse poetic licences and inaccuracy even when the author purports its work to be God given report of the documented facts: I have a pc and an internet connection to check facts on my own and form my own opinion on the events that are subject of the fictionalised account. Now, one of the pillars of this book is Callender's (the scandalmonger) assumption that Hamilton's affair was a cover for a real speculation scheme on Hamilton's part - with the excuse of a supposedly extended research to which the author dedicates an entire "underbook" of notes, including a two lines statement by Jacob Clingman (Maria's new lover and later second husband) to Monroe of 1 January 1793, we are given an appaling portrayal of an Alexander Hamilton as debauched seducer of teenaged married mothers, intriguer, forger of documents, ruthless liar who would tarnish the reputation of a poor woman to save his public profile.Well, I've done MY research and in this respect let me just say that I felt sick at Hamilton being portrayed as seducing a 19 years old Maria 4 years before the documented affair "because circumstantial evidence says the Hamiltons and the Reynolds were in New York at the same time" when documented evidence in Clingman's (not Hamilton's) deposition sees Maria in February 1792 admitting of the Reynolds' link with Hamilton being only a few months old. Furthermore, the letter by Jeremiah Wadsworth to Hamilton dated 2 August 1797 relates how Maria had applied to both him and even Governor Mifflin and that in trying to get them help her obtain her husband's release from prison she had spontaneously told both the story of her first acquaintance and following "amour" with Hamilton in words that very interestingly match Hamilton's recount of their first encounter as reported since the first draft of the Reynolds pamphlet of July 1797 (before Wadsworth's letter). You may read Warwirth's letter to Hamilton here Whatever I can turn a blind eye on in fiction, I cannot excuse deliberate manipulation or partial if not partisan use of records bent to the author's final goal to gain money by adding useless posthumous infamy to a man who paid dearly for his one time private weakness and even stooped to recount and fully prove in his "Reynolds Pamphlet" the sad tale of his flawed human nature with all its consequences. So long for your underbook and deliberately omitted records Mr Safire, Hell has a special place for people like you.Furthermore, what I cannot excuse in a fiction novel is said novel to be BORING. The author's choice to relay word by word the written documents of the time as dialogues (though twisted and more than once deliberately misplaced in terme of timeline) to seek an appearance of plausibility in his work makes simply for a struggling wooden prose and stiff odd-sounding exchanges between the characters. For a book that had an incredible potential of drama in setting out to fictionalise the dawning of smear campaigns in the press in the first political fights in newly born United States of America, even without the need to distort the truth, this novel fails to accomplish its mission and never kindles a single spark of emotion or interest.If you are interested in the history of the time, a good biography of any of the men depicted in this book will serve you better. If you are looking for a good fiction novel, look somewhere else.

  • Eric
    2019-01-29 05:43

    It's not every day that a fictional novel is published with source notes and a bibliography. But this isn't your usual novel. As Safire explains both before and after the book, this novel is a true account based on contemporary documentation. He's taken much of the words written by the historical characters in letters and presented them as dialog between the characters. It's a unique approach that makes for an entertaining and informative read.But what's the book about? Political intrigue, mainly. Scandal and those who spread it. Power politics. The quest for power. Even better, the characters are America's founding fathers, the true greatest American generation. The scandalmonger is James Callendar, an anti-federalist immigrant fleeing imprisonment in his native Scotland. Thomas Jefferson provides him some financial support for his writing, which flogs Federalist John Adams and his supporters. But when Jefferson becomes president, Callendar feels slighted by his former benefactor and turns on him and other anti-federalists by breaking the Sally Hemmings story. This description is too brief to cover the scope of this sweeping book. It includes the controversy over the Alien-Sedition Act, tension between France and America and the threat of war between the two countries, and the role of the press in the entire affair. At that time, anyone with some money (or with a supporter with money) could open a paper. The editor wrote many of the "news" stories, which blended news with opinion. There was no separation between the news and editorial pages. So you had blatantly partisan newspapers, both slamming the opposition and savaging the competition by name on a daily basis. Truth mattered much less than victory.All this reminded me of the Internet. The scandalmongers of yesterday are ancestors for the bloggers of the present day. Anyone can open a web site or get free space (or a Goodreads account!) and then spout their opinions. It's really a wonderful thing. Anyway, back to the book. Safire is a fine writer and knows his stuff, which makes a great book. The only nitpick I have is that it's a bit long and maybe overly ambitious. Sometimes, Callendar goes missing for several pages at a time as Safire switches to other viewpoints and scandals having nothing to with Callendar. But that's a minor thing.But one last thing before I go. I've long admired James Monroe, since the fifth grade, in fact, when I wrote an essay about him. But this book shows that he was one cold-hearted, politically calculating SOB. Not sure if that changes my opinion of him, though.

  • Suzanne
    2019-02-21 05:27

    Early American political history is frought with scandal, intrigue, plots and schemes. From the moment Alexander Hamilton set himself in opposition to the Republican forefathers, the United States established a two-party system that often seems as if it divides the country rather than unites it. For those who feel that the current sentiments between Republicans and Democrats are filled with unparalleled animosity towards each other, you should definitely read Scandalmonger.In this work of historical fiction, William Safire deftly explains and exposes the politics of the early 19th century with the true story of James Callender, pampheleteer and scandalmonger. Hired by Thomas Jefferson to help defeat the Federalists in the next election, Jefferson finds himself the target of Callender’s sharp barbs when he distances himself from the writer once he has won election.From the scandals of Hamilton, including the charges of financial misdealings and the Mrs. Reynolds affair to exposing Jefferson’s relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, Scandalmongers is as exciting to read today as it was for those reading the pamphlets of yesteryear. I was impressed with Safire’s extensive research and use of letters to recreate real conversations. Where he creates fiction for the purpose of story development, he is forthcoming with his readers in the notes in the back of the book.

  • Ann
    2019-02-07 07:37

    15 or 20 years ago, my mom recommended "Freedom" by William Safire. A historical novel based on the Civil War. It was a great book, so I was delighted to stumple upon his "Scandalmongers"(it was written in 2000). Safire takes historical fact and weaves in a little bit of fiction. The book follows with an 'underbook' that references what he writes that is real, and what is fiction. This book is set during George Washington's time and starts with a scandal concerning Alexander Hamilton. The newspaper writer who publishes the scandal and the years through Adam's and Jefferson's presidencies is a fascinating look at our founding fathers. Not at all the usual fluff about the 'great men'. This book tells the dark side (and it was very dark) of early politics. I found it a very hard book to get 'into'. However, once I was about 1/3 of the way through, it kept getting more and more interesting. If you're a political junkie, this is a 'must read'.

  • Stefanie
    2019-01-29 00:32

    A fascinating, shocking, delightful mostly-true tale of the years of the Adams and Jefferson presidencies. It follows the adulterous scandal that barred Hamilton from the presidency, the numerous sexual scandals that nearly cost Jefferson his re-election, the tensions with France and England, and how a saucy and fearless journalist named Callender brought it all about. Everyone who ever thought American history was boring should read this book, and everyone who ever thought American history was interesting should read it twice. The end notes are detailed and tell you a lot about what really happened and it’s fascinating that so much of the dialogue was taken from letters—it really gives you a feel for what the country was like at the time (and how little people have really changed).Cannot recommend enough.

  • Jim
    2019-01-30 04:44

    Real historical people mix with a few fictional characters in this novel about political intrigue in the first years of our nation. The central figure is James Callender, who supported the Republicans and then the Federalists, making the switch largely for perceived affronts from Thomas Jefferson. This is fun to read, with much of it based on actual events. Safire makes a reasonable attempt to capture late 18th and early 19th century modes of thought and speech, with a lot of his dialogue copied from letters written by the persons involved. Sometimes he inevitably slips into 20th-century journalistic style, but not so much as to be terribly distracting. He invents several new relationships for Maria Reynolds, who may well have been involved with Alexander Hamilton. Aaron Burr, Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison are also central figures.

  • Judy
    2019-02-16 03:49

    A fantastic historical novel about the mixture of agenda journalism and politics that fed the enmmity between Alexander Hamilton and his bitter rival, Thomas Jefferson. The scandalmonger is journalist James Callender, who published dirt on Hamilton's financial dealings. Hamilton fires back by leaking word of Jefferson's own amorous dealings with more than one woman. After reading "Scandalmonger," you'll never again think that journalistic feeding frenzies about politicians and their misdeeds -- real or accused -- are anything new. You'll also learn a lot about history in this book while having a rollicking good read!

  • Laura
    2019-02-02 07:33

    0/5 stars.This book was very dull, too thick to navigate, and the language was incomprehensible. I think I met everyone and no one, all of the characters being rather complex and difficult to follow. I think this story was ill when we met and it slipped down to death until the end, as the plot was buried under heavy layers of detail for the duration of the read, but I don't feel it was a very educational sort of journey. Still, it revealed the troubled times in our country's early days: creating boundaries for politicians and the press, suppressing the greedy and power-hungry, and protecting rights

  • Jenarseneau
    2019-02-16 01:40

    I've read this book before, but Fritz and I just finished the HBO series John Adams and it got me interested in American history. This book is a novel written by a historian and it tells the story of a "tabloid" writer (real person)who uncovered Thomas Jefferson's relationship with his slave Sally. But the buildup to that shows how politics in this country is exactly the same as it was right after the American Revolution. It's not the easiest book to get into, but it does get interesting and it is a good read.

  • Sharon
    2019-02-05 02:39

    I happened upon this book by chance. I had no idea Safire wrote fiction. This is the story of journalists during the presidencies of Adams and Jefferson. If you think jounalists dig dirt today, you should read what they wrote back then! Really interesting themes of truth vs. libel, freedom of the press, and public vs. personal behavior. The prose is more workmanlike than I'm used to in fiction, it reads more like non-fiction, but I enjoyed it immensely and promptly picked up some more titles covering this time period.

  • Christine
    2019-02-10 07:43

    I liked this book even more than I thought I would. Far from being boring or dry, this book brought history to life by leaning toward the "reality TV" angle of that period of history. And now I know what "Federalism" means. This period after G. Washington's presidency ended has always been pretty fuzzy in my mind, so this novel did a great job at making it memorable. I know it will stick with me. I figured that William Safire would offer a novel that is readable and entertaining, yet substantive and educational. I can't wait to read more of Safire's work!

  • Gerry
    2019-02-04 07:29

    It seems there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Safire’s novelization of historical events involving Jefferson & Hamilton suggests that the press has a long history of seeking out and publicizing incidents involving inappropriate behavior -- sometimes public, but just as often private -- by powerful politicians. Much of the commentary could have been written today, substituting Clinton for Hamilton. A little slow starting, but after the first hundred pages or so, a rather compelling read.

  • Gloria
    2019-02-19 06:23

    Since I'm not a history major it took me awhile to familiarize myself with the political characters and what was historically going on during that period of time. I particularly liked the Epilogue of "What Happened Later" and the "Notes and Sources" which I continuously looked at while I was reading the book. I found myself on the internet looking at other references for more details on the characters. I conclude that each of us will draw on our on imaginations as to what actually went on behind the scenes as so described in this book.

  • Tiffany
    2019-02-02 07:44

    This book was quite excellent in some places and good in others. It was a good piece of historical fiction. It was so good in that regard, that it is a good thing that the author makes pains in the end to explain what was historical and what was fiction.I do think the author played the part of a scandalmonger a bit himself here. Perhaps it is my own bias, but considering some of the things that were fiction, it seemed that he wanted to make clear which scandals of the founding fathers he felt were more and which were less scurrilous.

  • Sharon
    2019-02-17 07:29

    My knowledge of the early history of the United States as a government was limited to the facts. The political warfare, scandals, and intrigues were news to me. It was rough and tumble time. We take the view that political scandals are something new but apparently, it was a part of the social fabric of early America.

  • Ed
    2019-01-26 05:34

    Novel - Recorded version - a sprawling novel of the early years of political dealings after the Revolutionary War. The Federalists and Republicans are battling and scandalmongering newsmen keep the conflicts in the public eye. William Callender helps to discredit Alexander Hamilton but then feels betrayed by Thomas Jefferson and exposes his dark secrets.

  • Bill
    2019-01-23 06:35

    This was recommended to me by a colleague or I might never have picked it up. Although I was a little slow to warm to the story, Safire did a great job of weaving the historical events into a suspenseful plot, and before long I was hooked. I love this period of American history, and enjoyed learning more about Cobbett and Callender. Finally, someone came forward to champion them.

  • Tim
    2019-02-20 23:24

    Do not know if it was the clunky writing style or the handling of the subject matter, but I tossed this book aside quite quickly. May give it another chance before the summer is out (or it may end up at the thrift store).

  • Anika
    2019-02-07 06:46

    I never was interested in early American history when we studied it in highschool, but Scandalmonger turned it all around. Now I want to read about it all the time! Plus, who doesn't like William Safire (hello New York Times Magazine!)

  • Liz McMahon
    2019-01-24 06:35

    Fascinating historical novel during the transition from Adams to Jefferson, the Hamilton/Burr duel and the everpresent "scandalmongers" who wrote for the newspapers. Newspapers and politics now are tame compared to then! A book you never forget!

  • Louis Gary
    2019-02-17 00:41

    Interesting historical themes: the meaning of freedom of the press right after the 2nd amendment is created and how did our great experiment of a democratic republic actually work with the personalities of that time. Great book for those who love historical fiction.

  • Chuck
    2019-02-05 05:25

    A historical novel which takes place 1797-1806 and featuresearly pamphleteers and political news writers whose investigative reporting targets Alexander Hamilton and Tom Jefferson.