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IN BRIEF

Fiction

June 27, 1993|ALEX RAKSIN

BLUE HEARTS: A Novel by Jim Lehrer (Random House: $20; 214 pp.). One of the peculiar strengths of PBS' MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour--its ability to gift us with the illusion of being intimately involved in the workings of Washington--is also one of the most compelling aspects of Jim Lehrer's fiction. But in his fiction we get to delve deeper into the Beltway's self-important psyche to discover what Newshour guests might really be thinking about as they prattle on about IMF talks and treaty ratifications. It's still very much a male psyche, and Lehrer, as in his one-eyed Mack novels, pokes affectionate fun at it. Having just finished a whirlwind series of meetings with kings and premiers, for instance, former Secretary of State Bruce Conn Clark is in a huffy mood as he enters a fashionable D.C. eatery, annoyed that minor politicos might notice him and expect him to remember their names. But when no one recognizes him, he's so stunned that he barks out conspicuously to the host, "My name is Bruce Conn Clark!" Someone does eventually recognize Clark in the restaurant: Charlie, our "boring," ordinary-guy protagonist, and their liaison helps explain why Charlie's hotel room is bombed one day and why the steering on his Jeep Wagoneer fails the next. It's a snappy, involving thriller (a new genre for Lehrer), though its execution is somewhat flawed by emotionally distant characterization (after his hotel room explodes Charlie simply heads home on a train, marveling at the "red and yellow and purple" trees and the "soft, clean blue" of the sky) and by threadbare, Movie-of-the-Week turns of plot.

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