AH, SUCCESS! Richard Ben Cramer, an erstwhile...


AH, SUCCESS! Richard Ben Cramer, an erstwhile Sun reporter, baseball fan and poker player, has made a huge splash in the literary world with his 1,047-page tome on the 1988 presidential election, "What It Takes: The Way to the White House."

The Book of the Month Club cover selection last month, "What It Takes" has been reviewed nearly everywhere under the literary sun -- and almost everywhere glowingly.

Mr. Cramer went on from The Sun to win a Pulitzer Prize at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He now lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore, in Cambridge, with his wife, Carolyn White (a former Inquirer reporter), and 2-year-old daughter, Ruby. Baltimoreans will remember him for his 1984 story in Esquire, "Mayor Annoyed: The Best Mayor in America," about then-Mayor, now Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The book that has thrust him into the vanguard of literary fame is about the presidential wudabeens in 1988. It's written in Mr. Cramer's breezy, irreverent and occasionally bombastic style. (Bob Dole, for example, is "the Bobster.")

And now Esquire and the New Yorker are said to be fighting over him.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tina Brown, the Vanity Fair editor who shocked the publishing world by moving to the New Yorker a few weeks ago, has set off a bidding war among the literati as she attempts to corral the best talent for her new magazine.

She has, says the WSJ, asked Mr. Cramer to do a piece for the New Yorker. Meanwhile, Terry McDonell, Esquire's editor-in-chief, reportedly has tendered Mr. Cramer a regular column and looks without enthusiasm on the writer's byline appearing in both magazines.

Mr. Cramer says that at the time of Ms. Brown's offer, he was preoccupied with a promotional tour for "What It Takes." "It wasn't because I didn't want to do it; I just couldn't," he is quoted in the WSJ.

We hope he has an agent to handle all bidding wars. The one thing he could never do well in his Baltimore days was play poker.

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SOME ENTERPRISING vending machine companies and some mass-transit systems are coming to Susie's aid. That's Susan B. Anthony, the suffragette whose infamous dollar coin has been the biggest flop in recent U.S. Mint history.

One Michigan vendor circulates more than a million Susies a year to get rid of those awful dollar-bill changers.

Yet that hardly has encouraged a groundswell of support for the dollar coins. The U.S. Mint reports that only about 17 million of these dollars flowed into circulation in the peak year of 1987.

At last count, there are still 400 million of these Susies sitting unloved and unwanted in the U.S. Mint's vaults. Americans, it seems, just love their dollar bills.

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