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The Prince of Darkness

The Prince of Darkness Cover

The Prince of Darkness

50 Years Reporting in Washington

By Robert D. Novak

Crown Forum, Hardcover, 9781400051991, 672pp.

Publication Date: July 10, 2007


Long before Robert Novak became the center of a political firestorm in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal, he had established himself as one of the finest—and most controversial—political reporters in America. Now, in this sweeping, monumental memoir, Novak offers the first full account of his involvement in that affair, while also revealing the fascinating story of his remarkable life and career. This is a singular journey through a half century of stories, scandals, and personal encounters with Washington’s most powerful and colorful people.

Novak has been a Washington insider since the days when the place was a sleepy southern town and journalism was built on shoe leather and the ability to cultivate and keep sources (not to mention the ability to hold one’s liquor). He has covered every president since Truman, known (personally and professionally) virtually all the big movers and shakers in D.C., and broken a number of the biggest stories—the Plame story, we see here, being far from the most important. In this book, he puts it all into perspective. He also reveals the extraordinary transformations that have fundamentally remade Washington, politics, and journalism—and his own role in those transformations.

Moving beyond the “first draft of history” that is daily journalism, Novak can at last tell the stories behind the stories. He vividly recalls encounters with the Kennedys (angry meetings with Bobby, a scary ride home in Jack’s convertible), his unusual relationship with Lyndon Johnson (who hosted Novak’s wedding reception and who, “drunk as a loon,” had to be carried out of a bar by the young newsman), a decidedly odd off-the-record lunch with Ronald Reagan, and his first meetings with George W. Bush—at which the veteran journalist seriously underestimated the future president. We meet other fascinating characters as well, from Deng Xiaoping to Ted Turner to Ezra Pound.

Writing with bracing candor, Novak tells us how politics and journalism truly operate at the highest levels, both publicly and behind closed doors. He is equally open about his private experience. He writes frankly about the days when his drinking reflected too closely the boozy ways of the town. He acknowledges times when his job took precedence over his family. He is reflective about his political journey to the right. And he writes more personally than ever before about his spiritual journey, from his early life as a secular Jew to his conversion to Catholicism at the age of sixty-seven.

Packed with riveting, never-before-told stories, The Prince of Darkness is a hugely entertaining and equally perceptive view of fifty years in the life of Washington and the people who cover it.

Praise For The Prince of Darkness

"The controversial conservative columnist bares all...Novak's memoir offers a rich self-assessment of his work. Sure to be popular reading inside the Beltway, and worthy of an audience far beyond it as well."
Kirkus (starred review)

"Novak's insider-perspective, vitriolic pen and damn-the-torpedoes frankness make it a lively and eye-opening account of big-foot journalism."
Publisher's Weekly

"Every now and then a book comes along that everyone interested in politics should read. The new memoir by veteran journalist Robert D. Novak, I think, is one of those books...For the story it tells about American politics, as well as its candor, Novak's book covering his five decades as a print and TV journalist, immediately becomes the indispensable guide to what you really need to know about the messy intersection of the media and politics in Washington."
—Deal W. Hudson, former publisher of Crisis magazine

"Anyone interested in politics, journalism, and the course of public events over the last 50 years who does not buy and read The Prince of Darkness is denying himself one of the pleasures that life on this earth very seldom offers."
—Michael Barone, The Weekly Standard

"An extraordinary inside look at life in Washington over the last 50 years."
—Tim Russert

"Highly readable account of a remarkable journalistic career...A meaty book, full of delicious anecdotes."
Wall Street Journal

"Novak should be celebrated for his brutal honesty."
Christian Science Monitor

"Arguably the best journalist in Washington in the last half century...Both a brutally candid and important book, as well as a riveting read."
—Pat Buchanan, syndicated columnist

"This is history as it happened, without spin or an agenda...While older people with much experience in life may be better able to appreciate this outstanding book, it should be especially valuable to the young in presenting a realistic and three-dimensional picture of the world. They can get a lot of enlightenment from a prince of darkness."
—Thomas Sowell, syndicated columnist

"A book that anyone interested in politics or journalism ought to read...This is a book to savor."
Human Events

"A lot of fun...It really is just a great slice of political history and Americana."
—Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online

"[Novak is] a Washington institution who paints himself, convincingly, as churlish, brave, resilient, petty, and indefatigable. I got it as soon as it came out and found it entertaining,...human, and frank."
—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

"Characteristic bluntness reigns throughout as he recalls 50 years of political reporting...He is frank and unapologetic about his work, his viewpoints, and his personal shortcomings."

“Fascinating . . . an enlightening field guide to the politicians and journalists.”  
New York Times Book Review

“You won’t be able to put this book down.”
The American Spectator

“Page-turning . . . So informative is the book, and so rich its story of Washington, D.C., over the past half ­century, that many readers no doubt will long for more.”
Washington Times