It was a dark and stormy night.
Well, kind of.
It was, Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) remembers, a late-night Senate session in 1980. He and his colleague, Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.), went to the Senate dining room for a small bite and a large, reflective conversation.
What would they be doing if they weren't doing what they were doing? Cohen would be penning poetry. Hart would hie himself off to Ireland to write novels.
From that casual chat came a four-year collaboration, a first draft in 1981, a second in '82, writing chapters, passing them back and forth between elections and committee meetings. And now, the finished product, the thriller they've come here to tout--"The Double Man" (Morrow: $16.95). Released earlier this month, the book has garnered generally favorable reviews.
Mystic Inner World
It's late morning in the Beverly Hills Hotel suite and, for a few minutes, it's also a small look at the mystic inner world of the U.S. Senate. For those voters who see senators and potential senators only when engaged in electoral jousting, it is a glance at the collegial workings of that 100-person political club.
Hart and Cohen share a lot more than seats on different sides of the aisle--"We have a common interest in books and literature . . . our approaches toward defense issues, philosophically, aren't all that far apart," Hart said. "We obviously have some differences of policy and practical approaches."
Their personal styles are very different. Hart is spontaneous, with a leftover competitiveness from the presidential primary. He leaps to answer questions, self-assured, off-the-cuff. Cohen is deliberative, a careful Yankee, pulling papers and quotes from a briefcase, quoting Horace, at one point showing how current events are imitating their art, citing a recent news story about the bombing of a judge's car in Rome.
Their book is about the secret-service mechanisms of the United States and the Soviet Union gone astray and awry--individuals letting their personal ideologies set the path of their practice, their spycraft. Hart found, in his dealings with intelligence people, "that they, like the rest of us, tend to blur their self-interest with the interest of the nation."
It is a book about terrorism and about murder and politics and bloodletting. A lot of bloodletting. The opening scene is bloodcurdling, even though readers are led to believe, at least for a few paragraphs, that the 5-year-old grandson of the secretary of state has escaped the car-bombing carnage that killed his mother and grandmother. But, more firepower in the quiet of Washington's Waterside Drive and "the last human sound in the night was the high, thin wail of Woodrow Wilson Harrold III."
The central figure in what Cohen, with his poet's phrase, calls "clearing away the cobwebs" of decades of intelligence, is--no surprise--a U.S. senator, Tom Chandler. He is "no one and everyone, the everyman of the political process," Cohen said. "He's an ambitious senator. A redundancy, obviously."
The book--"basically an entertainment," Hart said--does reflect both the authors' knowledge of inside the intelligence establishment, and inside Washington. His search for truth takes Chandler to Rome, to Amsterdam, to 30 years of hidden history and finally to a confrontation with himself.
This is not, Cohen said, a morality play, but it does show the testing of a patriot, a man put in a situation beyond his conception, beyond his control.
Like a recent statement from former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who had said how much tougher, more personal the campaign was than she had thought going into it?
Hart replied that Ferraro's campaign "only went on three months. She ought to try the two-year route. I am always amazed when people who haven't gone on the long march come in sideways and say how hard it is."
Hart said he'll be using his share of the royalties to pay off a mortgage on his home, a direct result of his presidential try. As for Cohen, he laughed and said he won't contribute his share to pay off Hart's campaign debt.