PR chief (and Lunch at Michael’s regular) Peter Brown threw a reception at his Central Park West digs last night to welcome Eve Pollard, the former editor of London’s Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express, and celebrate the American publication of her novel Jack’s Widow, which depicts Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a CIA intelligence asset and agent. After spotting Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff and HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman in the foyer, I caught up with Pollard, happily chatting with NYT writer Alex Witchel. Witchel explained to me that one of her first jobs in journalism was as Pollard’s assistant when she launched Elle twenty years ago; she also revealed that she’s quite close to completing her own second novel (after 2002’s Me Times Three).
Although the mood at the party was thoroughly festive, the initial response to Pollard’s novel has been less than elated. Yesterday’s Page Six contained an item about the Kennedy clan’s displeasure (incorrectly identifying the book as a HarperCollins title rather than William Morrow, and then as always forgetting to mention the Post’s corporate connection to the publishing house), while Washington Post thriller critic Patrick Anderson slammed the book as a “ghoulish piece of trash.” On the other hand, Sherryl Connelly at the NY Daily News thought the book was “an altogether tantalizing could-have-been” that “expertly weaves the facts of Jackie’s life into [Pollard’s] fiction.” (Which, to be honest, is a rather odd assessment, considering the historical distortions Anderson catches…and the fact that every line of JFK or LBJ’s dialogue in the scenes I read on the subway home sounded less like Kennedy or Johnson than like stilted British functionaries. Which was a bit disappointing, as I was totally set to run with the premise…I mean, c’mon, Jackie O as spy? That’s thriller gold you’re working with!)