Mark Salter, embittered McCain aide with "writer's block," wrote "O"

The man who invented the Maverick myth is the "Anonymous" behind the not-well-reviewed campaign novel

Published January 27, 2011 5:15PM (EST)

Mark Salter, the man who invented the myth of John McCain, wrote the book "O," according to people who care about who wrote the book "O."

"O" is an anonymous political novel about Barack Obama running for reelection in 2012. The book is a dramatic, insider's account of how the people who run presidential campaigns find Arianna Huffington annoying.

Speaking of annoying, this "news" was sort of broken by Mark Halperin, though Salter has not confirmed it. (And why would he? The book has not been well-reviewed.)

There were some clues. Mark Salter fancies himself a literary type. He ghost-wrote John McCain's various books. "O's" opponent in the book is an honorable military type with no glaring and obvious personal flaws. (It is sort of McCain plus Romney, I guess. I have only skimmed it.) A Democrat might've written a book more critical of the way the Republican Party runs campaigns.

In a summer New York magazine story partially about how nu-John McCain has disappointed the man who crafted his modern public persona, we're told Salter retreated to Maine, to stew in his bitterness and "try his hand at writing fiction." But the Daily Beast claimed that Mark Salter would not write a thinly veiled novel about the 2008 campaign, because he has writer's block.

Mark Salter, John McCain’s co-author, and the man most credited with helping him shape his image as an iconic American hero—a maverick willing to buck orthodoxy in the name of principle (an image that McCain is in the process dismantling in his bitter primary fight)—has scrapped his plans to write fiction, and gone back to reality.

“I tried writing fiction after the '08 campaign ended. I didn’t have the talent for it, and returned to more reliably lucrative speechwriting,” Salter told The Daily Beast in an email.
Salter said he "gave it up altogether because the kind of writers I admire have so much more talent than I do that it discouraged me from believing that I could write anything a tenth as good as they do."

Right. Well, it's not Joe Klein unambiguously denying authorship of "Primary Colors," but it's still funny.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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2008 Elections 2012 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz. Political Books