Politician Makes Up Story

A big-city mayor must be all things to all people: traffic cop, fix-it man, novelist. Novelist? Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has expanded his public duties to include exploring his private fantasies. No, not those fantasies. Veltroni is too smart and ambitious a public servant — he is often mentioned as a future Italian Prime Minister — to write anything racy.

Still, his new book La Scoperta dell'Alba (Discovering the Dawn) has an intimate feel, following a 40-something's search for the cause of his father's disappearance during his childhood. "A mother can't abandon her child, but a father...