Christopher Buckley, the bestselling author of the comic classics The White House Mess and Thank You for Smoking, returns to the funniest place in America: Washington, D.C. Elizabeth Tyler MacMann, the First Lady of the United States, has been charged with killing her philandering husband, the President of the United States. In the midst of a bedroom spat, she allegedly hurled a historic Paul Revere spittoon at him, with tragic results. The attorney general has no choice but to put the First Lady on trial for assassination. The media has never warmed to Beth MacMann (her nickname in the tabloids is "Lady Bethmac"), and as America girds for a scandalous, sensational trial, Beth reaches out to the only defense attorney she trusts, Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, who charges $1,000 an hour and has represented a Who's Who of scoundrels: murderous running backs, society wife-killers, Los Alamos spies, and national-security sellouts. Why Boyce Baylor Because Beth loved him once, when they were law students.
Matheson brings all the skills one would expect of an experienced actor to Buckley's latest romp. In a story that's equal parts satire and courtroom drama, Buckley (Thank You for Smoking) slings barbs at lawyers, politicos and Washington's social elite. After President Ken MacMann returns from a lusty night in the Lincoln Bedroom with actress Babette Van Anka, his wife, Elizabeth, hurls insults and a priceless Paul Revere spittoon at him. When MacMann is found dead the next morning with the word "Revere" embossed on his forehead, the first lady becomes the prime suspect. Buckley lays his cards openly on the table: one lawyer is nicknamed "Shameless," while another's last name is Crudman. And Matheson captures them all, whether rendering Shameless Baylor's mock indignation at being refused a preposterous motion or evoking the arrogant commentary on a show called Hard Gavel. He also does excellent turns as the flighty, would-be Middle East peace activist Van Anka, a host of other witnesses and the no-nonsense judge who tries to keep the Trial of the Millennium in check. This may not be the year's most substantive audio, but with a plot that seems just crazy enough to be true and a crisp performance by Matheson, it never fails to entertain. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Forecasts, July 29). (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 13, 2003
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Excerpt from No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley
His secretary announced simply, It's her.
There was no ambiguity as to who her might be, not after the force twelve media storm of the previous weeks. The country was convulsed. Seven-eighths of the nation's front pages and the evening news was devoted to it. If war had broken out with Russia and China, it might have made page two.
Shameless Baylor had spent much of the previous seventeen days wondering if Beth MacMann would have the balls to call him.
He was, at age not quite fifty, the top trial attorney in the country. He had been the first lawyer to charge $1,000 per hour, which for too long had been considered the unbreakable sound barrier of legal billing.
There were half a dozen second-best trial attorneys each of whom, naturally, considered him- or herself the top trial attorney in the country. But none of them had been simultaneously on the covers of all three weekly newsmagazines, none had been portrayed in movies by a famous British actor pretending to be American. None owned a professional baseball team. And, to be sure, none had been married and divorced four times. The previous record had stood at three. That he had any assets left after such serial marital wreckage was perhaps the greatest testament to his courtroom skills.
He hadn t been baptized Shameless. In fact, up to the moment he set out to become the best trial attorney in the country he had been the soul of decency, what used to go by the name of Christian gentleman, a veritable poster boy for all that is good and sunny in human nature. His real name was Boyce, and at his baptism, his godparents firmly rejected Satan on his behalf. The rejection lasted until an event that occurred to him just before he graduated from law school.
The nickname had been given to him by a federal judge early in Boyce s controversial career, after he had persuaded a jury that his client, the Cap n Bob Fast Fish Restaurant chain, was unaware that its popular Neptune Burgers were made from black market Japanese whale meat. Since that stunning victory, Boyce had successfully defended traitors, terrorists, inside traders, politicians, mobsters, blackmailers, polluters, toxic-waste dumpers, cheats, insurance frauds, drug dealers, horse dopers, televangelists, hucksters, society wife batterers, cybermonopolists, and even fellow lawyers. An eminent legal scholar who wore bow ties commented on public television that if Shameless Baylor had defended Adolf Eichmann after he had been kidnapped and brought to Israel and tried for crimes against humanity, Eichmann would have been not only acquitted, but awarded damages. It was not said admiringly. But if Boyce s fame had long since reached the point where shoeshine men in airports asked for his autograph, the public was largely unaware of the actual motivation for his remarkable career.
And now a quarter century after his career began his phone rang.
He reached for the button, then paused. He thought of telling the secretary to tell her to call back. Sometimes he put new clients through a ten- or fifteen-minute wait before picking up. Softened them up. Made them all the more eager.
Should he, to her. No. He had waited twenty-five years. He was too impatient to begin this beguine.