Books: Poison Pens

Safire's novel frolics with the Founding Fathers

William Safire's vigorously animated historical novel, Scandalmonger (Simon & Schuster: 496 pages; $27), is barely under way when we are made privy to mutual adultery between Alexander Hamilton and the fetching Mrs. Maria Reynolds, a little known contributor to affairs of state during the 1790s.

This bodice-ripping encounter starring a Founding Father and a femme fatale may or may not be faithful to history, but it is definitely a reliable narrative device. Safire, the snappy, right-hooking political columnist for the New York Times, can always be counted on to keep his readers informed while also in a state of high expectation.

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