The Solomon Scandals
The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large
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Imagine you’re with the Secret Service. A young Ohioan calls up and says he’ll be joining the Nazi Party. “I wanted you to know.” Wait—the story gets even better. The Ohio man already has been within shooting range of presidential candidates. J. Ross Baughman isn’t a real Nazi, however. Instead he is a photojournalist for […]

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Searching for Wooden Watermelons is a sweet indie flick about a bright 20-something in Beaumont, Texas, who is puzzling out her future. Hundreds of Watermelons-style films exist. Call ‘em Small Town Smart and Unhappy. And yet I couldn’t take my eyes off Watermelons when I watched it on the Vanguard channel by way of the […]

Decades before the ABC-TV series Scandal or House of Cards on Netflix, The Solomon Scandals existed in manuscript form—a quirky look at a darker side of D.C. that you can’t see on the screen right now or read about in the standard bestsellers. Scandals isn’t about a comely fixer in love with Mr. President, or […]

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I named him Carlos, after a Miami–Dade politician with a bat-crazy miserliness toward public libraries. Our winged friend paid us a bedroom visit earlier this week, announcing his presence in the dark with a rustle. I turned on the light to see a shadow against the wall. How had he gotten into a second-floor condo […]

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Jack Shafer, the Reuters columnist, wrote last year that Graham family should spin off the Washington Post newspaper from the company of the same name. As the buyer he suggested Michael Bloomberg. “Not so crazy an idea,” I said on the Solomon Scandals site and in the Georgetown Dish. Now the spin-off will become a […]

Enjoying the gritty depictions of Washington power players in the fabulous House of Cards series on Netflix? Then you might also check out The Solomon Scandals, which predates the Netflix program. Like so much of House, as well as the classic novel All the King’s Men, Scandals is about the conflict between friendship and duty. […]

Never mind fiscal cliffs, or the fact that the real danger isn’t a Mayan-style apocalypse but a nuclear one (with the Doomsday clock last set at five minutes to midnight). For more than a few of us, the big threat is the year ahead, 2013. Perhaps 85 percent of the world’s office buildings lack marked […]

A new local bookstore and Twilight Times Books, publisher of The Solomon Scandals, are teaming up to offer the e-book version for free, in major digital formats, for customers who buy the paperback from the store (price: $16.95). The bundling deal will be limited to the first eight buyers. re∙reads Books is south of Alexandria, […]

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How could I have written a newspaper novel like The Solomon Scandals without a chain-smoking editor? Kamikaze levels of tobacco and booze use helped certify newsroom denizens as manly risk-takers several decades ago, the time period of Scandals. Women were part of the scene by the 1970s, but they tended not to partake with such […]

At a Virginia shopping center, Obama voter-registration volunteers had to set  up their tent at a somewhat out-of-the-way location on the sidewalk. The reason? Some merchants saw this civic activism as a risk to their businesses. Others across the country, including some major shopping center owners, would undoubtedly feel the same. I’ll withhold the name […]

If you’re here to learn more about Quinn Bradlee’s activities, check out the LibraryCity site. A long essay there mentions his Friends of Quinn campaign for people with learning disabilities. The LibraryCity post is actually about the need for two separate national digital library systems—one public and one academic—to serve often-starkly different library users. And […]

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Alexis de Tocqueville helped demystify the America of the 19th century even though he was a visitor rather than a local. In fact, the extra detachment may have helped. Similarly, James Fallows’s writings will provide future readers with shrewd insights into the China of the aughts and beyond. In China Airborne, the latest Fallows book, […]

The New York Times, whether on global warming, the newest iPad or corruption in Mongolia, outdoes the Washington Post all too often. Underfunded for a hyper-competitive Internet era, the Post newsroom stints on local reporting, too. WaPo’s numbers could be much better. Future Grahams and others may not show the patience of Donald and kin. And the current […]

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What counts more for Web-era writers of news or opinion? Coming up with snappy, credible, well-researched articles? Or improving dialogues with readers, in the best tradition of the Internet’s interactivity? Short of cloning themselves or pulling off a Philip K. Dick android act, writers for many of the most popular news sites lack enough time for […]

Sally Quinn-bashers have once again been at work—ridiculing an essay headlined Sally Quinn announces the end of power in Washington. Granted, Ms. Quinn has never delighted my inner Veblen. The essay among other things recalled the era when Quinn and her husband, Ben Bradlee, “might have attended five-course dinners a couple of nights a week, […]

Update #1: Ethics-challenged or not, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia's Eighth District won reelection June 12. Scroll to the end for my advice for his possible foes in the 2014 Democratic primary. Update #2: Jim Moran has since told me there was no quid pro quo, that the real estate developer's contributions were part of […]

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While this site exists partly to plug The Solomon Scandals novel about old-time newspapering, it’s also an experiment in online technology. iPad owners can see a snazzy magazine-style look from the Onswipe add-on for WordPress (described in detail in an independent blog post by my friend Nate Hoffelder). If you don’t own an iPad, click […]

Cal Thomas, the conservative columnist, isn’t ready yet to call our war in Afghanistan a scandal despite raising some excellent questions in his column of May 30. But I am. Even casting aside morality and asking, “Is this war even good by selfish standards?”, Afghanistan flunks the test, as shown by China’s access to the country’s […]

Smith Corona typewriters and all, the Front Page days lasted for decades at the Lorain Journal, now the Morning Journal but once an evening paper. I can still smell the old paste bottles and remember my fear of impalement on a copy spike, or the time a neighbor of the director of the local public […]

The inspiration for The Solomon Scandals novel came in part from my real-life investigation of the late Sen. Abraham Ribicoff’s secret investment in a CIA-occupied building. But guess what? The research was mostly a bureaucratic exercise, a series of phone calls, face-to-face interviews, Freedom of Information letters, and other routine matters. No underground parking garages. […]

On CIA matters, The Solomon Scandals is fiction—not about what happened, but what could have happened. To this day we still don’t know the full story of why a U.S. senator held a secret stake in a CIA-occupied building in Arlington, VA, that the agency leased by way of the scandal-ridden General Services Administration. What has been established over the years is […]

Tax dollars at work, GSA style Angry taxpayers are buzzing over the organizational “culture” at the General Services Administration, the federal procurement agency. I don’t mean Chaucer, Mozart or Van Gogh. Enjoy this spoof video for a GSA conference—rudely picked up by ABC News and others. Hey, you helped pay for it. GSA was supposed […]

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Trailer from Scandal ABC series The Solomon Scandals novel, set amid the Washington muck, bears the same title as ABC-TV’s similarly located Scandal series, except for the "The," the "Solomon," and the "s" Big differences I’ve seen so far? The book, though fiction, takes on The System. ABC is less serious-uppity. Also, Scandals’s Jonathan Stone dedicates […]

”Among the other expenses were $3,200 for a mind reader, $6,300 on a commemorative coin set displayed in velvet boxes and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.” – Washington Post report on $823K splurged on a 300-employee federal conference in Las Vegas. Ouch. The gems in the sentence above don’t even include […]