Time: Anonymous Author of 'O' Is Mark Salter

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This month, DC bloggers have been obsessing over "O," the anonymously-written novel about Obama's 2012 campaign. Though it was poorly received by critics, the challenge of identifying the author boosted the book's profile. Today, Time's Mark Halperin says he's figured it out: It's John McCain's longtime speechwriter Mark Salter. Aside from confirmation from sources, Halperin says there were a number of clues that tipped him off:

--Simon and Schuster topper Jonathan Karp was Salter's editor on books he did with Senator McCain.

--Salter has been holed up in Maine since leaving his job in the Senate.

--The descriptions that Karp has given of the author matched Salter.

--Salter's non-denial denial was the closest to a confession of any suspect who was publicly asked.

--There is a story early in the book based on a real-life tale that would have been known only to a McCain campaign insider such as Salter.

Halperin, then, wins this game. The rest of DC's blogging establishment now reflects on where they went wrong:

  • I Blew It, concedes Michael Sherer at Time who earlier this month said Salter was definitely not the author "on the basis of a single sentence's syntax." Now he says that "obviously, in retrospect, it is ludicrous to draw conclusions about any work based on the merits of a single clunky sentence. It would be like arguing that Salvador Dali is a realist for painting a basket of bread or that Robert DeNiro can't act on the basis of a single movie--say Rocky and Bullwinkle.
It was obvious from skimming 'O: A Presidential Novel,' written by "Anonymous" and published Tuesday after an intense publicity campaign, that its author was male, on the political center-right, and not a professional writer. The writing lacked the finesse of a pro, described women in vivid physical terms, and imagined for the president a disdain for liberal Democrats that echoed the way conservatives talk about liberals, rather than the way reporters or mainstream Democrats do.
  • In Hindsight, This Was a Great Way to Sell a Book, writes Jennifer Epstein  at Politico. "In a marketing ploy that worked--it got political insiders across the country talking about a book that got mediocre reviews--Simon & Schuster described the author only as someone who 'has been in the room with Barack Obama and wishes to remain anonymous.'"

After the chaos and dysfunction of the campaign, Salter made an important personal decision: He would continue to write speeches for McCain, and collect a check, but he would no longer fight McCain on political matters. He wanted to try his hand at writing fiction.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.