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Party Favours

by Jean Doe

Weird town, this Ottawa. A town where older reporters call younger reporters “my young friend” and shadowy sources say things like “time is of the essence.” A town where the women are either leggy or buxom, sometimes both. A town where one-eyed finance ministers plot the overthrow of potato-faced prime ministers. A town where everybody drones on obsessively about what kind of town it is.

A very badly written town, too, as portrayed by the pseudonymous “Jean Doe” in Party Favours. Everybody in Ottawa’s political-media elite was buzzing about this knockoff of Primary Colors, the witty roman à clef about the 1992 U.S. presidential election that made its anonymous author, later revealed to be journalist Joe Klein, quite rich. That is, everybody was buzzing about Party Favours until it was actually published, and word spread about how painful the thing is to read. When dreary reality replaced tantalizing rumour, the buzz died quickly.

Party Favours is the story of Christopher O’Reilly, a plucky Canadian Press reporter who stumbles onto a dastardly plot involving Finance Minister Jean Rioux’s ties to a mysterious public relations firm called the Prince Group. With the help of an anonymous source, code-named Igor, and a leggy political staffer named France, O’Reilly discovers that the Prince Group is helping Rioux destroy his political enemies. Joining O’Reilly in his adventures are thinly disguised parodies of assorted hacks and flacks, including spunky Deputy Prime Minister Annie Frosini (Sheila Copps) and chain-smoking Financial Post reporter Sherry Bickle (The Globe and Mail’s Susan Delacourt). Everyone who works on Parliament Hill will recognize these characters; nobody living outside Ottawa will care. Whoever Jean Doe is, he (the author is almost certainly a man) carries a heavy load of vendettas and prejudices. Sexist and homophobic passages abound, as do references to Quebeckers as poutine-addicted layabouts. Jean Doe also has a tremendous hate on for Paul Martin, who gains an eyepatch and becomes the novel’s arch-villain.

The whole thing is a tedious slog through too many passages like this: “Mac Lee, having grown weary of Joey’s bottomless supply of Flash Feiffer penis analogies, brightened when he saw Curtis. He readied himself to plant an unsolicited, and wet, kiss on Curtis’s cheek, then did so with a lascivious look.”

In fact, Ottawa is not a town where people have to ready themselves before they plant kisses. It is no more a hotbed of sex than is, say, Edmonton. Nor is it the scene of many particularly interesting intrigues. It is, in its quiet way, an interesting place with the occasional stimulating political debate and a couple of good restaurants. There may be a good political novel hidden in it somewhere; but it awaits a good political novelist.


Reviewer: Paul Wells

Publisher: HarperCollins


Price: $28

Page Count: 256 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-00-224562-0

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1997-11

Categories: Fiction: Novels