Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s debut novel has yet to be published, but it already has created a dark and stormy night for Republicans. They’re mostly villains in “A Time to Run,” a suspense tale penned by the California Democrat.

The New York Times questioned Mrs. Boxer’s portrayal of Republicans as “snakes” and Democrats as “saints” in the book, which chronicles the adventures of a diminutive redhead who assumes her husband’s Senate seat after he is killed, then tries to foil the nomination of a conservative woman to the Supreme Court.

“I’ve written eight political autobiographies, four detective novels and two kids’ books,” former New York Mayor Ed Koch said yesterday. He is among a handful of politicians who have tried their hand at fiction.

“In retrospect, I’d write another autobiography any day. You don’t have to make anything up. It all happened. But writing a novel is way too much work. I wish her luck,” Mr. Koch said.

Indeed. Mrs. Boxer — who opposed the nomination of conservative Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice of the Supreme Court and questions Harriet Miers’ qualifications to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — has had to answer to critics who wonder where fiction stops and agenda begins. The discord was fueled by advance materials and sneak peeks at the 320-page book, published by San Francisco-based Chronicle Books.

“You need to be the conscience of the liberals, even if you’re only a voice in the wilderness,” an aide tells Sen. Ellen Fischer, the book’s very Democratic heroine.

There was no official comment from Mrs. Boxer yesterday.

“We’re under orders not to talk about the book,” said her spokesman, David Sandretti.

In an interview with the Times on Sunday, however, Mrs. Boxer acknowledged writing the book “with a point of view,” adding that as a party, the “Democrats have virtuous goals.”

Mrs. Boxer told Publishers Weekly last month that her novel was “definitely a struggle between liberals and conservatives, and knowing that I wrote the book, you can imagine who wins the day.”

In an Associated Press interview, she described the timing of her book as “almost unbelievable.”

The book will be published tomorrow, and Mrs. Boxer will embark on a publicity tour beginning Nov. 1, publicist Laina Adler said. The tour will include four appearances in the Washington area.

Sundry reviews are already crabby.

“Suffice it to say, this effort reads more like a cross between a bad romance novel and a soap opera script. The Congressional Record might be more entertaining. And it’s free,” noted the Sacramento Bee, which obtained an uncorrected proof of the novel last month but was prohibited from quoting directly from it.

According to Mrs. Boxer’s 2004 financial records, she received an advance of $15,938 for the novel, co-written with Mary-Rose Hayes, a sixtysomething British author known for such feminine fare as “Amethyst” and “The Winter Women.”

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