It’s tough to tell what’s thinly-veiled fact and what’s completely made up in talk-show host Michael Smerconish’s first novel.
Real-life political and media figures weave among invented ones in “Talk,” which is set for May release. But Smerconish, a Sirius XM radio host and MSNBC analyst, lobs a few zingers at fellow broadcasters, via his narrator, an ambitious but conflicted conservative talk show host, that seem heartfelt: Keith Olbermann is “a pompous horse’s ass,” while Bill Maher’s show is a “lion’s den.”
“My highest purpose was to entertain,” Smerconish says. But he also wants to warn readers to be skeptical about what’s behind so much of the vitriol they hear on the airwaves. “A lot of it is fake.”
The novel tells the story of Stan Powers, a Florida talk-radio host who dreams of national syndication and inheriting the Rush Limbaugh mantle. Manipulated into using ever more conservative rhetoric by campaign operatives and by a Svengali-like radio coach, Powers ultimately helps a particularly nasty Texas governor win the GOP nomination — before recanting in a dramatic on-air monologue that would make “The Newsroom”‘s Will McAvoy proud.
It isn’t a roman a clef, and Smerconish isn’t the fictional Powers. But the author — a rare independent in a polarized field — often feels his character’s pain. “I’m running against the tide most days of the week.”