Jeffrey Frank

Selected Works

Narrative History
“Perhaps the most intriguing—and dysfunctional—political marriage in history ... a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda....” —Front Page, The New York Times Book Review
"One of the best books ever written about Richard Nixon"
--Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker
"[A] compelling and enlightening account of one of the most important and complicated political relationships in postwar U.S. history.... fascinating"
-- The Washington Post
Fiction
Another triumph from one of America’s most reliable and inventive comic novelists. Trudy Hopedale is understated, cunning and relentlessly funny.”
--David Sedaris
“Wickedly funny...”
--(Starred) Kirkus Review
"The Columnist is 'as dark as chocolate and every bit as tasty.'"
--Christopher Buckley
Translation
“The Franks’ edition finally sets the stories straight...”
--Elise Soukup, Newsweek

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My Works

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage
“Perhaps the most intriguing—and dysfunctional—political marriage in history... a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda for much of the 20th century.”
--Front Page, The New York Times Book Review

"...an elegant example of how pleasurable political history can be when written by a skilled teller of fictional tales who has a careful reporter’s respect for facts. It is top-drawer as political history, unusually well written, and stuffed with forty pages of notes providing sources for an extraordinary variety of information. It is also an entertaining human tale of generational conflict, filled with the elements that enliven popular novels and soap operas."
---Russell Baker, The New York Review of Books

“…the two men’s relationship...had a dozen shifting dimensions, each of them now done narrative and analytical justice by Jeffrey Frank…one of the best books ever written about Richard Nixon…Ike and Dick shows how much life remains in artfully straightforward narrative history. It’s done here with an old-fashioned sharpness of eye...and a springiness of phrasing.”
--Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker

“Engrossing…worthwhile…. At the heart of Ike and Dick are marvelously cringe-inducing anecdotes that capture an awkward relationship that improved over time without ever truly blooming.”
-- The Wall Street Journal

“Frank constructs a marvelous account of political history as well as astute portraits of the two men….the rich, inside-politics mix of rumor and maneuver in which connoisseurs of political history love to marinate.”
Booklist

“Jeffrey Frank knows a good story when he sees one, or sees two….Ambition and hesitation, intrigue and indifference, scheming and serenity, infuse 31 chapters. His saga evokes the seamy underside of the sunny 1950s…..[A] detailed and charming history.”
--Martin F. Nolan, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Frank paces this deeply researched history like a novel, lending freshness even to well-told tales. ….. an absorbing and worthwhile book.”
----Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The elegant writing in this book reflects Frank’s skills as a political novelist and is several cuts above most historians’ prose. Both Eisenhower and Nixon appear here as three-dimensional characters.”
---Geoffrey Kabaservice, The New Republic

“…that rare and understatedly important book that suggests a subtle rethink, offering both the casual reader and the student of history a surprisingly candid and humane look at the national villain-in-chief, Richard Nixon. And just as significant, Frank helps to round out our portrait of Nixon’s venerable political mentor, the equally wily and fickle President Dwight D. Eisenhower….[A] carefully argued and nuanced book.”
--Charleston Post and Courier

“..evocative, clear-eyed”
--Newsday

“revelatory”
--Richmond Times-Dispatch

”fascinating”
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"...a gracefully written, sober, and judicious book that manages to humanize both of its subjects while capturing the strange amorality of politics."
--National Review

“Jeffrey Frank is a nimble writer with a clear-eyed understanding of power….[the book] … reveals the nuances of the complex relationship between Nixon and the man under whom he served as vice president, Dwight Eisenhower, nuances that should resonate with Republicans who are waging an internecine struggle over the future of their party…. thriller-like intensity.”
--Miami Herald

“Jeffrey Frank sorts through these layers of angst and irony with a skillful hand and a sense of empathy for the troubled man at his book's center.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Frank's exploration of the relationship is deeply researched, through extensive reading and interviews with some 70 people who were involved in the political scene of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon presidential years. It's also well-written, a straightforward narrative that moves steadily through time on a story arc that's studded with insider perspectives and with intimate and sometimes excruciating anecdotes.”
--Buffalo News

“To read this book is to be reminded of Richard Nixon’s singularly tortured character in all its cussedness and genius—and to learn anew of Dwight Eisenhower’s capacity for shrewd political cunning and often insouciant human coldness. Ike and Dick deeply textures our understanding of two outsized American personalities...and it’s full of delicious gossip, too.”
--David M. Kennedy Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear

“This is superlative, compelling, can’t-put-it-down history. Jeffrey Frank is an elegant writer, with a novelist’s eye; the relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon, in all its complexity and weirdness, is a treasure chest that he unpacks brilliantly. This is the perfect time for us to reconsider the trajectory of the Republican Party in the late 20th century, and this book is a perfect way to do it.”
--Joe Klein, Time columnist

“The mating of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon was one of the strangest and most fateful in all of American political history. With psychological acuity and perfect pitch for the not-so-distant past, Jeffrey Frank has captured the story beautifully.
Ike and Dick will surprise and greatly entertain as well as enlighten you.”
--Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy

Ike and Dick is enthralling, innovative, and judicious. It rivets the reader. Jeffrey Frank knows Washington and national politics inside and out. He employs numerous interviews and recently declassified information superbly. In critical respects, and by using their own words with meticulous care, he peels away layers of disingenuousness from both men. The cast of characters, including indiscreet aides, ranges from bright red to shady gray.”
--Michael Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and past president of the Organization of American Historians )

“Exploring their interactions in episode after episode, in settings ranging from Republican Party conventions to the White House to golf courses, Frank constructs a marvelous account of political history as well as astute portraits of the two men. … [a] rich, inside-politics mix of rumor and maneuver in which connoisseurs of political history love to marinate.
— Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

“…in Ike and Dick, Frank’s journalistic and novelistic skills are both put to good use.. … [The book] is eminently readable, with clever characterizations (Henry Kissinger, for example, had the skill of sounding “simultaneously rational and insane”) and an eye for telling detail. Frank has delved into presidential libraries, university archives, and oral history, and conducted numerous new interviews. … an increasingly distant era come[s] vibrantly alive.”
--Andrew Rudalevige, Washington Monthly

“This deeply researched account, which includes more than 60 author-conducted interviews, is the only complete book treatment of the enduring yet shaky political connection that guided the United States through some of the most critical decades of the Cold War.
--Library Journal

"A novelist and former editor at the New Yorker and the Washington Post, Frank turns his attention to history with a very good result.... Nixon remains a chilly character, but Frank argues convincingly that he was intelligent, shrewd, and, regarding civil rights, more liberal than Eisenhower."
--Publishers Weekly

"...Throughout, Frank highlights the major events of the Eisenhower presidency, the following presidential elections and beyond, filtering them effectively through the lens of the Eisenhower-Nixon dynamic. The author does a fine job delineating the complex personalities of both men, and he provides novelistic touches befitting his background. At one point, he describes the colorful political figure Clare Boothe Luce as 'beautiful, charming, and slightly mad,' and, at another, he thoughtfully compares Nixon to an Anthony Trollope character … A well-researched and -written history that will satisfy both Eisenhower and Nixon aficionados.”
--Kirkus

Trudy Hopedale
"Trudy Hopedale...takes us on a brief journey through a few months in the capital-city lives of two unreliable narrators…Each of these people has a few secrets that it wouldn't be proper to mention aloud -- whispering is so much better. They try to preserve their regal pretensions with self-important, exquisitely reserved interior monologues that are belied by failings they can't quite hide…

"Trudy Hopedale is a society novel that could take place at any time, though the Lewinsky circus makes undignified noises in the distance. The plot turns on the efforts of both Trudy and Donald to maintain their respective positions as each faces potential ruin from scandal. Describing such maneuverings, Mr. Frank can be as delicately lethal as Edith Wharton or Henry James. He constructs a tale of status reversals and lies avenged, leaving several major events to happen in a hush offstage as though it would be unseemly for us to witness them.

"Part of the novel's appeal is Mr. Frank's stealthy wit. He stands as stone-faced as a butler in the background while his characters feast on self-delusion. Trudy's husband, Roger, is an eminence grise who has written books like The Edge of American Power: The Paradox of Supremacy, which, as Mr. Frank drily puts it, "few took note of, probably because dozens of other books had roughly the same title." Roger inspires threats from an old spook, who thinks that Roger's latest book, an iridescently awful attempt at spy fiction, might contain classified information. Mr. Frank has great fun peeking at its actual contents ("Mitch nibbled the nubs of Tootsie's mottled nipples"). Roger boasts that the book is in the tradition of John Grisham -- and John Updike. "The two Johns," he says. "They're my chief influences."

"The names in the novel capture both Washington's stolid pomposity and its feral bloodlust. The spook is called Royal Arsine; a rapacious talk-radio host, Bucky Ravenschlag; a heavy-thighed reporter, Jennifer Pouch. Perhaps because of the planetary pull of Bill Clinton's scandals, sex seems to alter every orbit in "Trudy Hopedale." Even Trudy's mother-in-law is now claiming that she bedded Harry Truman. It isn't long before Trudy herself, for all her affectation of a high-society upbringing, says to herself, contemplating a blackmail threat: "I'm not ashamed... of the few months I spent dancing at a bar in Detroit, where I took off some of my clothes, but not all of them, and definitely never the bottoms." It is comforting to know that, even in the Clinton era, some principles remained important. Or did they? As Trudy says of another Washington ideal: 'Deep down, I really believe that. Or I think I do.' "

--Kyle Smith, The Wall Street Journal


"The 2000 presidential election “is but one of several elephants in the room in this frothily entertaining novel. The primary characters are so mightily self-absorbed that they hardly notice the political currents churning around them, at least until outlying ripples threaten their personal and social lives.
"Covering the period from spring 2000 to late summer 2001, the novel is narrated in the alternating voices of Donald Frizzé, a self-proclaimed vice-presidential historian, and the titular Trudy, a society wife and hostess of a local television talk show. Donald, whose reputation seems to be based mainly on his flowing locks and dreamy good looks, is struggling to write a biography of William McKinley's first vice president while also contending with a spurned Washington Post reporter, accusations of plagiarism, rumors about his sexuality and an extremely suspicious-looking mosquito bite on his wrist.
"…Frank's writing is consistently funny, and he keeps the story moving along at a brisk clip. Much of the humor is that of polite understatement: 'It looked like their conversation was not all that friendly,' relates Trudy at one point, 'not the way their arms were waving.' Trudy's insensitivity can be morbidly hilarious: She obsesses over the guest list for a funeral and at a benefit for the "horrible rare disease we were all celebrating and raising money for," she focuses on who gets the prime seating assignments…
“...laughs in abundance. Furthermore, readers have the advantage of hindsight, of knowing what lies ahead, adding piquancy to moments such as the one in which Donald, who has a penchant for overlooked and inconsequential vice presidents, muses, "I'm thinking of writing a biography of Dick Cheney -- I'd be the first. What do you think?"

--Judy Budnitz, The Washington Post


"Jeffrey Frank is the master of the satiric novel of company-town Washington bad manners. He is the Peter de Vries of status anxiety, the Henry James of envy. He is the anti-Allen Drury. His books are the precise opposite of those overstuffed airport paperbacks with raised lettering and Presidential seals on the cover, the “towering bestsellers” that take you behind the scenes from the White House to the Pentagon to the storied halls of Congress, where the fate of a nation hangs in the balance and the passions and secrets of the most powerful men and women on earth blah blah thud. Jeffrey Frank’s characters—who are apt to be empty-souled columnists, half-forgotten ex-Congressmen hoping for a sub-Cabinet job, third-tier think tankers pining for a call from the cable-show bookers, fading Georgetown hostesses, and, deliciously (in Trudy Hopedale) a “Vice-Presidential historian”—are seldom more than one step ahead of the humiliation they generally deserve but are utterly baffled by. Frank’s command of the voices of his creations, who are often the (unreliable) narrators of their own follies, is awe-inspiring.
"These books are not about politics, by the way. They are about certain cringe-making and, sad to say, probably universal aspects of the human condition. These books are merciless. Liberals love them; conservatives love them; centrists love them. I love them.
--Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker


“A major accomplishment”

Booklist


”Plumbing Washington, D.C., archetypes is what Jeffrey Frank does best.
"From the safety of Manhattan, of course...
"They live tenuous--nearly paranoid--lives that rise and fall based on their proximity to those who run "this town." They are the sort of people who are privately gleeful whenever scandal fells yet another "dear friend," but are congenitally unable to come to terms with their own ethical lapses--large or small.
"It's a world encapsulated by feckless characters such as the supercilious, bow-tie-wearing scribe Brandon Sladder, star of Frank's 2001 fictional memoir The Columnist who wrecks a remarkable string of lives in his relentless push for self-promotion. And it's the same world that can be brutally punishing to the formerly important as the ensemble cast of political has-beens in Bad Publicity Frank's follow-up novel, discovers.
The books "are all about careerism. They are all about ambition. And they are also all about in a way people who are defeated by their ambitions," Frank avers.
"The socially ambitious title character of Frank's new release, Trudy Hopedale.... certainly is no exception.
"…Set during the waning days of the Clinton administration and the early months of the current Bush White House, and told from the point of view of Trudy and her 'dear friend' and frequent party guest Donald Frizze -- a sexually ambiguous historian with attribution issues who can never quite seem to finish his book on Vice President Garret Augustus Hobart -- the novel practically pullulates with the pedestrian inanities of the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, chattering classes. (And yes, there are references to a 'slimy congressman and his disappearing intern' and 'shark attacks.')
"Frank…is at his best when he draws on his considerable powers of observation to deliver a pitch-perfect sendup of the ways and thinking of a certain element in the Washington caste system.
"And Trudy's Barbie-doll-style internal monologue is so un-self-consciously self- absorbed it makes you want to laugh out loud -- probably because if you've patronized enough Washington events you've seen aspects of Trudy all over town.
"…The Hopedales' "essential" July Fourth barbecue was a place where "just about everyone shows up. Members of past administrations cling to Washington like rings on the inside of a tub, and in two or three hours, it is possible to move through several decades," Donald observes. At one point, a defense expert contemplates "taking up the oboe if" Al Gore wins the 2000 presidential election.

-Bree Hocking, Roll Call


“It's a typical Washington dinner party. The big questions are: Is the hostess making it with the senator? Will the reporter bed the historian? And by the way -- what about the presidential election? Jeffrey Frank expands his satirical chronicle of Washington in his third novel, Trudy Hopedale,' charting the decline of his eponymous heroine and a few other figures outside the halls of power in the year before Sept. 11, 2001.
“Trudy is a Washington dinner-party and TV-talk-show hostess. Her jobless husband, Roger, has written an unpublished novel based on his various Foreign Service postings titled Desks of Power. Their friend Donald Frizze, an independently wealthy vice-presidential historian, is pursuing research for a book on Garret Augustus Hobart. (He was V.P. under McKinley.)
“The catalysts of their decline are a lustful reporter named Jennifer Pouch and a nasty spook with the subtle name of Royal Arsine. But—as always in Frank's painful comedy—they're really undone by their own character flaws.
“Frank, a former Washington journalist who is now an editor at The New Yorker, first took on the capital in The Columnist (2001), a novel in the form of a memoir by a political pundit—a creature so full of himself that he's equally oblivious to the hurt he inflicts, the injuries he receives and the mediocrity of his work. As a sustained narrative by a cringe-inducing ass, The Columnist is a very funny tour de force.
Bad Publicity (2004) takes aim at lawyers, PR firms and think tanks in a busy, entertaining third-person narrative that shows how one lie told in the right place can upend marriages and careers, while myriad other lies keep the town rolling along. Focusing on the lower ranks of a PR company and the upper echelon of a powerful law firm, Frank has fun throwing barbs in every direction.
"With Trudy Hopedale he returns to the first person, giving Trudy and her friend Donald alternating sections that provide comically different perspectives on the same events: Trudy's ill-judged affair with a U.S. senator emerges as a younger rival is edging her off the TV show. Donald's early plagiarism catches up with him as he fends off Jennifer Pouch, both physically and journalistically. And Roger's novel proves to be more revealing than Royal Arsine can abide.
"Frank's mostly understated humor depends on the well-turned phrase (``members of past administrations cling to Washington like rings on the inside of a tub'') or the cumulative effect of well-observed details. …. Frank means partly to bring readers to the dinner table with his characters, to let us hear them after a few drinks, leaning over to share the latest rumors and furors. They can be crude, silly, even elegiac.
“And I think he also means to convey a sense of the commonplace in a capital of extremes--a town otherwise rife with photo ops, scandal and headlines.”
--Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg News






The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen:
A New Translation from the Danish

with Diana Crone Frank

“Hans Christian Andersen, in aesthetic eminence, is comparable to Dickens and the later Tolstoy. In the cultural dumbing-down represented by the Harry Potter phenomenon, adults and children alike need the actual Andersen, here made brilliantly available by the Franks.”
--Harold Bloom, editor of Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages



Bad Publicity
“...Jeffrey Frank's archly and uncinematically literate Bad Publicity (Simon & Schuster)…answers the immortal question of whether there's such a thing as bad publicity by showing that it's the only kind there is.”
--Thomas Leitch, Hollywoodreporter.com

The Columnist
"...a darkly funny fictional 'memoir' by a columnist and TV personality who flatters and blackmails his way to power and then crashes in a scandal so lurid it makes the Lewinsky affair seem tame..."
--The New York Times Book Review