It's hardly the first time that conservative television talk-show host Glenn Beck has written a book. (Far from it: Beck is the author of at least five books, including last year's top selling "Glenn Beck's Common Sense"). But "The Overton Window" is his first attempt at a new genre: the thriller.
How does Beck succeed? Not too well, if you believe the book reviewers.
The book's plot centers on the conspiracy of a slick Manhattan PR type named Arthur Gardner to put an end to the American experiment in self-government. Gardner believes that through proper manipulation he can make Americans accept even the most radical ideas, and he has cooked up a plot to take over the nation. Battling against him are a brave and beautiful patriot named Molly, and Gardner's own son, Noah, who has fallen in love with Molly and come to see the world through her eyes.
According to some critics, however, "thriller" is a misnomer for this book.
The Washington Post, which reviewed the book under the headline "Glenn Beck's paranoid thriller," pegged the literary value of "The Overton Window" at "none," and says that the "suspense of 'The Overton Window' comes largely from wondering when the thrills will begin."
The headline on The Huffington Post's review of "The Overton Window" suggests that the book may be involved in "a conspiracy to bore you senseless." The Post's reviewer calls the book "a very creepy" fantasy, but adds that, "What 'The Overton Window' is not, despite the jacket's boasting, is 'a thriller.' "
The New York Times book blog linked to a review on blog site MediaMatters, which finds "The Overton Window" to be full of "many plot holes, ridiculous narrative devices, and long-winded limited-government sermonizing." In summary, this review calls the book "a truly and remarkably awful novel."
There will undoubtedly also be positive reviews of "The Overton Window" but at least as of yet they are not easy to turn up online. (The closest thing to a defense of the book I was able to find was a National Review blogger who said he hadn't read the book yet but felt that the word "paranoid" in The Washington Post's headline applied better to the Post's reviewer than to "The Overton Window").
A few bad reviews, however, are unlikely to discourage Beck who, as USA Today points out, has built – along with 34 employees – "a $32-million-a-year media empire that includes books like 'Glenn Beck's Common Sense' (No. 1 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list in 2009), his own magazine (Fushion, $34.95 for 10 issues a year) and a one-man stage show."
Beck, who hired a team of writers to help him with "The Overton Window," often – and very successfully – promotes books he likes on his show.
As for "The Overton Window," Beck told USA Today that he has already written a sequel to the book. He will publish it, however, only if "['The Overton Window'] sells."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.