There was a recent presidential sex scandal. And there was one two centuries ago.
The president was Thomas Jefferson, and the ''Linda Tripp'' of the day was journalist James Thomson Callender, the subject of William Safire's historical novel ''Scandalmonger.''
''Scandalmonger'' is among new hardcover books that include novels by John Updike, E.L. Doctorow and John Grisham; and nonfiction by Jan Morris, Helen Gurley Brown, J. Randy Taraborrelli and Joe Queenan.
(Simon & Schuster)
by William Safire
Letters, documents, newspaper stories and trial transcripts contribute to this historical novel. Vice President Jefferson paid journalist Callender to write a story that would damage the reputation and ruin the presidential hopes of Jefferson's political rival, Alexander Hamilton. When Jefferson became president, Callender, believing Jefferson had betrayed him, took revenge by leaking a story that Jefferson had fathered children with his household's slave, Sally Hemmings.
"Gertrude and Claudius"
by John Updike
The winner of two Pulitzers and author of 50 books offers a prequel to Shakespeare's ''Hamlet.'' Gertrude, the daughter of Denmark's King Rorik, enters an arranged marriage with a man she doesn't love. She and her husband become queen and king and bear a son, Prince Hamlet. But Gertrude, bored with her marriage and motherhood, takes a lover in Claudius, her husband's younger brother, who murders the king and marries Gertrude.
"City of God"
by E.L. Doctorow
The ''Ragtime'' author sets this tale in modern-day New York. A large brass cross disappears from behind the altar at St. Timothy's, a rundown church in lower Manhattan, and reappears on the roof of an Upper West Side synagogue. The church's maverick rector and the synagogue's female rabbi try to find out who moved the cross and why. Joining the investigation is a writer who thinks the story might make a good subject for his next novel.
by John Grisham
Three former judges are inmates at a minimum-security prison in Florida, where they're raking in thousands of dollars through a letter-writing scam run with the help of a crooked lawyer on the outside. But one of their pen pals turns out to be a man with influential friends who uncover the scam and are bent on putting the judges out of business.
by Olivia Goldsmith
Life is sweet for three 30-ish women until Angela learns that her husband has been unfaithful, Michelle suspects that her husband deals in drugs, and Jada's husband kidnaps their children and sues for custody. They join forces, seeking justice and revenge, concocting a plan that involves stiletto-heel shoes, paint thinner, secret safe-deposit boxes, glue, and millions of dollars in plastic-wrapped cash.
"Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest"
(Simon & Schuster)
by Jan Morris
The Welsh historian-travel writer describes her first visit to the United States in the 1950s, when she became skeptical about Americans' sacred image of Abraham Lincoln and obsession with ''the country boy (who) had ended American slavery and saved the Union.'' To better understand his life and legacy, Morris retraced Lincoln's steps, from his Kentucky birthplace to Illinois, and to Washington along the same rail route Lincoln took when he became president.
"I'm Wild Again"
by Helen Gurley Brown
The author of the 1962 sensation ''Sex and the Single Girl'' and longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine offers ''Snippets From My Life and a Few Brazen Thoughts.'' They include observations about marriage, adultery, food, exercise, office politics, travel and celebrity. Brown describes her difficult childhood in Arkansas, her 17 secretarial jobs, her cosmetic surgery, her successful marriage and her battle with breast cancer.
"Jackie, Ethel, Joan"
by J. Randy Taraborrelli
The celebrity biographer explores the relationship among three women who married Kennedys: John's wife Jackie, who brought glamour and grace to the White House and maintained it throughout her life; Robert's wife Ethel, whose dream of becoming first lady died with her husband; and Ted's first wife Joan, who quietly fell apart through family tragedies but was rescued with Jackie's help.
by Joe Queenan
The humorist and pop-culture critic tries to shed his curmudgeon image and become ''nice.'' Queenan examines goodness in the Western world, from Jesus to Sting, and contemplates consulting religious leaders in case he is offered sainthood. He reviews his writings to determine just how mean he has been, and retracts, sort of, his attacks on Dr. Ruth, Bill Gates, Civil War buffs, Mother Nature and others.
by Jon Katz
Katz, author of a mystery series set in suburban New Jersey, writes a true account from Idaho of Jesse and Eric, two self-admitted ''geeks'' -- small-town 19-year-olds who spend their spare time online and their spare money on their computers. They have low-paying jobs, little social life and little to look forward to, but they -- and many like them -- use technology to expand their lives and their horizons.
-- "The Vision of Emma Blau'' (Simon & Schuster) by Ursula Hegi. This companion novel to ''Stones From the River'' follows a German-American family throughout the 20th century.
-- "Fork in the Road'' (Pocket) by Denis Hamill. An American filmmaker in Ireland falls for a female pickpocket.
-- "Colonization: Down to Earth'' (Del Rey) by Harry Turtledove. This alternate-history series reaches the 1960s, where Earl Warren is U.S. president and Himmler heads Nazi Germany.
-- "Follow the Stars Home'' (Bantam) by Luanne Rice. A pediatrician hides his romantic feelings for the wife his brother abandoned.
-- "Tamsin Harte'' (St. Martin's) by Malcolm MacDonald. A woman who runs a boarding house at an English seaside resort pursues a wealthy visitor.
-- "The Missing World'' (Knopf) by Margot Livesey. A man gets a fresh start when an accident erases the recent memory of a woman he betrayed.
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