BOOKS: The Devil May Dance: Jake Tapper

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Jun. 5—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Robert Kennedy, Peter Lawford, John Wayne are just a few of the celebrities making an appearance in Jake Tapper's novel, "The Devil May Dance."

Early 1960s, Congressman Charlie Marder's father is jailed and Attorney General Robert Kennedy uses that situation to push the congressman into infiltrating the Rat Pack to learn what he can about the mafia through Sinatra's alleged mob connections.

Marder's cover is he's tapped as a consultant — a veteran of war and politics to add authenticity to the filming of "The Manchurian Candidate" starring Sinatra.

Marder, a World War II veteran, is already on shaky emotional ground as he battles with alcoholism and personal demons while entering the all-night carousing of the Rat Pack. Charlie has an emotional anchor in his wife, Margaret, who accompanies him; however, her main concern is a runaway teenage niece who has apparently fallen into troubling danger in Hollywood.

Tapper, a CNN newsman, drops a lot of names in this novel and has fun inserting his fictional Charlie and Margaret Marder into the Rat Pack's heyday in Vegas and Hollywood.

He set a similar tone with the previous 2018 novel, "The Hellfire Club," which featured Marder embroiled in the McCarthy-era Red Scare politics of the 1950s. Though the first book featured mostly political figures from the era.

Like "Hellfire," "The Devil May Dance" is fast paced and entertaining. Fans looking for the glitz and glamour of the Rat Pack and the Kennedyesque Camelot will find no romanticism here. Sinatra is a brooding, womanizing, middle-aged brute; Dean Martin is a boor whether he's really drunk or not; and the Rat Pack is mostly sycophants to the moods and tantrums of Sinatra. Even John Wayne comes under the sharp scrutiny of Tapper's pen.

At times, it feels like Tapper is cramming every possible political, entertainment and news reference of the era into his novel but the references seem to fuel the plot rather than slow it.

The book is a rollicking dance of suspense.

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