Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965-68)
Disclaimer: I’m a life-long Democrat who until this year (2016) had no interest in Donald Trump, despite the fact that we live in the same town. I never listened to Howard Stern on the radio, I’ve never been to Trump Tower or any other of Trump’s mega structures in New York City. I never watched The Apprentice, Miss Universe, or Miss Teen USA. I did stand outside of The Taj Majal casino on the boardwalk on Atlantic City, once many years ago, while it was under construction. I held zero fascination for Mr. Trump until he declared his candidacy for President of the United States. — A. M.
The President’s Butler, by Laurence Leamer is a satirical look at Donald Trump, his background and his candidacy. It was self-published this year. It presents a character known as Vincent Victor who has all the characteristics of Donald Trump.
The narrator is Billy Baxter who winds up being Victor’s butler. The first part of the book is more about Billy, how he became a butler and how he ended up working for Victor, a corporate raider who buys out Billy’s initial employer.
In many ways the book, for me, was educational as well as entertaining, especially regarding the earlier parts of Victor’s (Trump’s) career. Leamer goes to lengths to distance Victor from Trump, giving him a different career and using completely fabricated names for the people in Victor’s life, nevertheless in doesn’t take a genius to realize who’s who in the story. I’m far from a genius, and I had no problem doing that. It’s more about the personality types, attitudes and reactions to situations as they come up in the story, that are parallels to Trump’s adventures.
Billy’s own story is pretty interesting, and when we first meet Victor he’s kind of fascinating too as he maneuvers his way through corporations, gets richer almost by the hour, and rationalizes to Billy (and us, the readers) why and how he does it. I confess to almost liking Victor at first, and wanting him to succeed because the some of the characters he pulverizes are as scummy as he eventually becomes.
Based on the title, I was half-expecting the story to be something akin to the Forest Whitaker movie The Butler, but it turned out to be nothing like it at all.
After Victor, Billy Baxter is the second-most-important character in the story, though once Victor takes the stage, Billy mostly just reports on what’s happening without much editorializing. At the very end he does act, but I think his last act, and the entire story, could have been somewhat more developed. The novel ends just after the election is over and apparently the author, Leamer, wants us to take it from there.
The best part of the book is Victor’s rise to megalomania — as it is almost happening in real time. While reading The President’s Butler, the daily news cycles almost appeared to mirror events in the story rather than vice versa. I tried to read the book as quickly as possible and get the review done, because I think the most exciting thing would be to read it before Election Day, which is less than a month from when I’m writing this review. Even though Victor’s fictional life is quite different from Trump’s, once both men have declared their candidacy, the overlap becomes remarkable. The events of the primary campaign and the various candidates, are treated hilariously. But the climax and what follows are the products of Leamer’s imagination. While still interesting and even engrossing, it’s no longer satire because Leamer is predicting how things will turn out. Not to worry, I won’t reveal it here. I will comment that in my opinion, I hope, Leamer is a better satirist than a prognosticator.
Reviewer Andy Martin is a former PCV — Ethiopia, with an MEd. in TESOL. He spent the first half of his career in front of a classroom teaching ESL and training ESL teachers. The second half was spent working for eight different ESL publishers, the last and longest being Cambridge University Press. He retired seven years ago and began publishing two language related blogs, Rolls off the Tongue, a cartoon idiom guessing game, and What’s So Funny? that explains jokes to people who don’t get them. Both are available on Facebook. His greatest accomplishment is being married to the same woman for forty-four years and having two phenomenal children. Other than that he pursues two other passions, Aikido, and singing doo-wop acappella. He intends to spend the rest of his years in New York City.
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