Library Journal Review
Drury, who died on September 2 after a long, distinguished career, here merges his university novels with his Washington novels, a genre he pioneered. Drury saw his Advise and Consent (1959) win the Pulitzer Prize and rule the New York Times best sellers list for 93 weeks. His new work, which revisits characters he created in Toward What Bright Glory?, is primarily the story of principled conservative senator Richard Emmett Wilson, who is considering a run for the presidency. The novel also digs into the seamy life of a professor, noted for his slimy character, who is Wilson's enemy. Both men‘as well as most of the other characters‘belonged to the same college fraternity, Class of 1939. The novel is like the ultimate Christmas letter, offering chatty, reflective accounts of people just before death's threshold. Lugubrious in its pessimism, it has a profound resonance with fin-de-siècle America. The powerful Washington community, with its high tolerance for the messy part of legislative compromise, clashes repeatedly with partisan groups able to hew to the purer line of various ideologies. Many fans will enjoy the novel's elegiac flavor as it reflects on battles lost and won; new readers will want to continue into Drury's backlist of 19 novels.‘Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Drury died recently after a long career that never approached the apogee of 1961's Pulitzer Prize-winning Advise and Consent. In this final volume of his University Novels series (Into What Far Harbor?), he fires one last hyperbolic salvo at those he deems culpable for America's plummeting moral, cultural and political values. Liberals and the media (especially "New York's Mother of All Newspapers" and "Washington's Daily Conscience of the Universe") draw heavy fire. The shaky plot assigned to shoulder this polemical load focuses upon aging California Senator Richard Emmett "Willie" Wilson, whom the author depicts as a controversial spokesman for "middle of the road" values, though Wilson's opponents seem more incensed by his smug, golden-boy persona than by his moderate political agenda. As the novel opens, Wilson is organizing a reunion in the year 2001 for the surviving members of his 1939 Alpha Zeta fraternity house. The reunion chapters bracket a series of flashbacks to the milestones and millstones of the senator's very distinguished, very public life. Among these are the death of his first wife, confrontations in the 1960s with his radical activist son and an aborted run for the presidency during the mid-1980s. His nemesis at every juncture is Dr. Renny Suratt, rogue frat brother, nationally prominent liberal gadfly and, as Drury portrays him, a cross between Abbie Hoffman and Lucifer. Wilson and Suratt persist for decades in their barely civilized debate, fueling it with an inexhaustible supply of enmity and mutual jealousy. Unfortunately for the reader, it's like watching two drivers who engage in strident highway shouting matches on their daily commute between glass house and ivory tower. The story crumbles beneath the weight of its own world-weariness and despair for a nation that no longer measures up to the author's ideals. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Booklist Review
The recently deceased Drury worked for two decades in Washington, D.C., covering the U.S. Senate and other beats for UPI, the Washington Star, and the New York Times. He began turning fact into fiction with Advise and Consent (1959); most of his other 18 novels also centered on politics. Public Men closes Drury's University trilogy, which followed fraternity brothers at a school that resembles Stanford (his alma mater) from pre-World War II college years to midcareer in Toward What Bright Glory? (1990) and Into What Far Harbor? (1993), and sketches their crowning achievements and retirement years in this final series entry. Willie Wilson is the series' center. Wilson, a U.S. senator from his native California, runs for the White House in the '80s, with the support of most of his college brothers but the all-too-predictable strong opposition of leftist prof Renny Suratt, symbol of all that Wilson (and Drury) hate. There's nothing subtle about the politics here, but readers who enjoyed Drury's earlier University novels will want to peruse the final leg of these public men's journey to that great frat house in the sky. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)0684807033Mary Carroll
Kirkus Review
The recently deceased Pulitzer-winner's 20th novel, again a big book about Washington, but also a survey of the sundry geriatric characters first introduced to us in the authorŽs ``University Novels,'' Toward What Bright Glory? and Into What Far Harbor?. DruryŽs a high-spirited and dreadful stylist. Still, thereŽs some fun in his romping run-on sentences and larger-than-life cardboard figures, mouthing off paralyzing nullities as they batter straw horses. The leads here are Alpha Zeta frat brothers who attended Stanford during the years 1939Ž41. Now in his early 80s, US Senator Richard Emmett ``Willie'' Wilson looks back on his earlier run for the presidency, sending out invitations to his remaining Alpha Zeta buddies for a reunion in 2001. They include Randy Carrero, a cardinal in the Vatican; Hack Haggerty, a diplomat; waspishly vile-tongued Renny Suratt, Stanford political science prof; Tim Bates of the Washington Inquirer; Tony Andrade, a California vintner; Dr. Guy Unruh of Honolulu; North McAllister, retired Salt Lake City doctor; and about ten others, all chock-full of chat. Back when Senator Willie ran for the presidency, he wondered whether his first son Latt would marry Ti-Anna, daughter of Stanford's brilliant first black student (who was murdered by a thrown brick). Latt was a war protester in the '60s who nonetheless went to Vietnam, got a leg blown off, returned home, became an even stronger activist, and later ran for the House. Meanwhile, Willie commits infidelities while wife Donna is fatally ill, and raises a second family. When he runs for top office, his campaign is compromised by gay son Amos, who at last commits suicide with his lover, Joel. A middlebrow time-passer for the Drury faithful.