Jim Webb’s Dirty Books

Senator George Allen has issued a press release detailing lurid, strange, and otherwise lame scenes from the novels of his Democratic opponent, former Navy Secretary James Webb.


The Author’s Disturbing Writings Show a Continued Pattern of Demeaning Women

· Some of Webb’s writings are very disturbing for a candidate hoping to represent the families of Virginians in the U.S. Senate.

· Many excellent books about the United States military and wartime service accomplish their purposes, and even win awards, without systematically demeaning women, and without dehumanizing women, men and even children.

· Webb’s novels disturbingly and consistently — indeed, almost uniformly — portray women as servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these. In novel after novel, Webb assigns his female characters base, negative characteristics. In thousands of pages of fiction penned by Webb, there are few if any strong, admirable women or positive female role models.

Update:Why does Jim Webb refuse to portray women in a respectful, positive light, whether in his non-fiction concerning their role in the military, or in his provocative novels? How can women trust him to represent their views in the Senate when chauvinistic attitudes and sexually exploitive [sic] references run throughout his fiction and non-fiction writings?

· Most Virginians and Americans would find passages such as those below shocking, especially coming from the pen of someone who seeks the privilege of serving in the United States Senate, one of the highest offices in the land:

What follows is are ten quotes, many of which, even out of context, are neither shocking nor degrading to women. I’ve placed the whole lot below the fold. Still, passages of pedophilia, mother-son sex, male-male sex, and explicit descriptions of the unusual things strippers do with bananas are probably not the ideal way to appeal to centrist voters.

John Hawkins, who published a somewhat different list nearly a month ago, thinks this will be devastating:

In my opinion, having this story break big will mean the end of James Webb’s chances to be a Senator. Know why? Because even though it’s fiction, it’s so depraved that a lot of people will have a visceral negative reaction to it — and to Webb.

Intellectually, people may know it’s fiction, but when you start describing and talking about grotesquely racist comments, incest, pedophilia, and women slicing up bananas with their private parts, there are just a lot of people who will find that disgusting, whether it’s fiction or not, and they will believe it reflects what Webb really thinks in his private moments. Is that fair? Maybe not. But, that’s people and that’s politics.

While I agree with AllahPundit, who asks, “Have we actually reached the point where Senate seats now turn on the sex scandals of fictional characters?,” Hawkins is likely right. Of course, it would have been much smarter for the Allen campaign to leak this information in such a way as to give a journalist a scoop rather than have it appear as obvious smear campaign, but I wouldn’t expect Dick Wadham to be smart enough to figure that out.

As I’ve noted many times in this sordid campaign, there are plenty of legitimate policy differences between the two men to focus the debate on. Webb successfully stoked the flames on the “Allen is a racist boob” meme and Allen countered by tossing the “Webb is a misogynist jerk” grenade. Both men are lessened for it, as are Virginia’s voters.

Update: One positive side effect of this will be that the Washington press corps will stop harping on the fact that Webb has written oodles of books, demonstrating how wickedly smart and talented he is. Regardless of one’s view of the sex scenes detailed below, I think we can all agree that the writing is dreck.

Update: Interestingly, many bloggers who are more socially conservative than I am agree.

Michelle Malkin reminds us “how pathetic it was when the Left tried to make scandals out of books written by Lynne Cheney and Scooter Libby.” She observes that, “if this what Republican Senate candidates need to do to win elections, I don’t think any of us should be cheering.”

Sister Toljah dismisses the charges with a simple, “So what?”

Rick Moran thinks, “Allen may very well have sealed his victory by ‘outing’ Webb’s fictional day dreams but he has lost his soul in the process.”

Update: Radley Balko puts the most controversial passage into perspective:

I just did an Amazon search on the passage in Webb’s book. It isn’t the least bit titillating. It’s in the context of an American in an exotic, backward, remote part of a foreign land. The penis-kissing scene baffles and bewilders the Americans. It is clearly not a “fellating.” It is not a depiction of pedophelia. It’s very obviously scene painting, and the shock and oddity of the act adds to the lead characters’ sense that they’re out-of-place.

Michael Demmons: “All that Allen has done here, and all that the people who are giddy about this whole book incident are proving is how ignorant and stupid they are.”

Update: Steven Taylor joins the chorus of conservative bloggers who think this whole affair rather sordid and links to a Webb interview with DC talk radio king WTOP (summarized at CNSNews)

“I don’t know why you’re reading that on WTOP,” Webb told host Mark Plotkin. “I think it’s a little bit inappropriate.” Plotkin was reading an excerpt from Webb’s novel “Something to Die For,” in which Webb describes a female stripper performing sexual acts with a banana. “I don’t think that’s appropriate for you to read on WTOP,” Webb said again as Plotkin finished the excerpt. (Washington Post Radio is WTOP’s sister station.)


Among the excerpts is a scene from the 2002 novel “Lost Soldiers,” in which a man embraces his four-year-old son and places the boy’s penis in his mouth. Webb said the release of the excerpts was “a Karl Rove campaign tactic” and a “classic example of the way this campaign has worked. It’s smear after smear.” He defended his fiction as “illuminative.” “It’s not a sexual act,” Webb told Plotkin regarding the “Lost Soldiers” excerpt. “I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist.” “The duty of a writer is to illuminate his surroundings,” he added.

This may well backfire. What’s odd, aside from the Wadhamesque stupidity of running this as a press release rather than as a plant, is that all the polling shows that Allen is ahead at the moment. A desperation move seems unwarranted as it is unseemly.

Update: Allen’s New Media Coordinator, Jon Henke, says fair is fair.

[S]ince Webb asked voters to “imagine a Senator who writes his own books”, it’s difficult to see how citing his own work — which he regards as “not a sexual act”, but “inappropriate” for radio — could be a “smear”.

He quotes Keith Olbermann and others justifying going after Scooter Libby and others for their works of fiction. Again, politics ain’t beanbag and calling attention to this is perfectly fair.

Still, I disagree with Jon when he writes, “Whether voters think what Webb has written is relevant or irrelevant, so be it.” The problem is that, when they throw up charges to see what sticks, inevitably something does. The Webb folks could very well say, “”Whether voters think that calling a kid ‘Macaca’ is relevant or irrelevant, so be it.” The end result is that both candidates’ reputations are permanently sullied and voters’ beliefs that all politicians are sleazebags are given more confirmation.

The promised Webb book quotations from the Allen press release:

Lost Soldiers: “A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.”

Bantam Books, NY, 1st Edition, 2001, (hard cover), page 333.
Quote is from para. 10,.Chap. 34.

— Something to Die For: “Fogarty . . . watch[ed] a naked young stripper do the splits over a banana. She stood back up, her face smiling proudly and her round breasts glistening from a spotlight in the dim bar, and left the banana on the bar, cut in four equal sections by the muscles of her vagina.”

William Morrow and Company, Inc., NY 1991, 1st Ed. (hardcover), p. 36.
Avon Books, New York, 1992 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 35
Quote is from para. 29, Chap. 2 “The South China Sea,”, Section 2

— A Country Such as This: “[He] could see Jawbone and Ashley Asthmatic [two guards at a Vietnamese prison camp] napping together in the grass. They faced inward, their arms entwined. It looked like they were masturbating each other. It didn’t surprise him. … It was common to see men holding hands, embracing, playing with each other. Some of them [the guards] had wanted him. He could tell in those evanescent moments between his bao cao bow, the obligatory deference when a guard entered his cell, and the first word or blow that followed it… Quick, grinding voices, turgid with repressed passion. An exploratory reaching of the hand near his groin…”

Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1983 (hardcover); page 396.
Bluejacket Books, 2001 (Trade paperback edition), page 396
Page numbers are the same in the Naval Institute Press (paperback) edition, 1983.
Quote is from fifth para, Part 5 “A Country Such As This,” Chap. 24, Section 1

— A Sense of Honor: “Nurse Goodbody, dark and voluptuous (Lenahan had forgotten her actual name, it was something long and Italian), was a bedtime friend to many of the doctors in Bethesda. She had hinted to Lenahan that she simply could not contain herself. Doctors tending to patients, she explained, aroused her. Morphine Mary (again Lenahan could not remember her exact name) was a thin, nervous drill sergeant type, a disciplinarian who did not allow her patients even to complain. Lenahan was convinced that Morphine Mary did not even sleep with her husband. She wasn’t bad looking, he mused again, staring at her thin frame. If she’d just get laid every now and then she’d mellow out and stop being such a damn witch.” (p. 164) (Lenahan brings Goodbody home with him and has sex, pp. 188-190)

Prentice-Hall, New York, 1981 (hardcover)
Bantam, New York, 1982 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 164
Trade paperback edition, Bluejacket Books, 1995, p. 164
Quote is from fourth para in Part 3, “Chapter 4:1600”

— Something to Die For: “[Fogarty] has been thinking of the firm, springy skin and the sweet smells of a young Filipina woman named Maria in whose bed he had spent three nights almost twenty years ago. . . . She was a deliciously bad young woman. . . . On the second night, he had brought her a box of Godiva chocolates . . . . he had awakened to find her in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet with her knees underneath her chin, eating chocolates and counting her rosary beads as she prayed.”

William Morrow and Company, Inc., NY 1991, 1st Ed. (hardcover), p. 32.
Avon Books New York, 1992 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 30
Quote is from third para in Chapter 2 “South China Sea,”, Part 2

— Something to Die For: “We’re on our way to becoming the world’s recreational center, a nation [USA] not to be taken seriously. Where are we still the undisputed leader? Music. Movies. Fast food. Drugs. . . . the billboards fifty years from now as you come over the bridge and stop at the tollbooths outside Manhattan: A smiling beautiful naked woman, and the sign saying AMERICAN ASS IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCT.”

William Morrow and Company, Inc., NY 1991, 1st Ed. (hardcover), p. 199.
Avon Books New York, 1992 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 237
Quote is from para. 38, Chap. 13, Part 1, (five paras before Part 2).

— Fields of Fire: Snake (the protagonist) sees his mother on the bed: “She looked as if she were carefully attempting to re-create a picture from some long-forgotten men’s magazine . . . . She was naked underneath the robe . . . . and the robe fell loosely away, revealing her. Snake shrugged resignedly.”

Prentice-Hall, New York, 1978 (Hardcover, 1st edition), p. 8
Bantam Books “mass market [paperback] edition” published in Sept. 2001. p. 9.
Quote is from paragraphs 18-23, Part 1 “The Best We Have”, Section 1
(NOTE: Part 1 is after the Prologue)

— Fields of Fire: “He saw the invitation with every bouncing breast and curved hip. . . . He was thirteen. . . . She was fifteen . . . . In a few moments she drew him to her and he murmured in his quiet voice, ‘I am still small.’ ‘You are large enough,’ she answered. And he found he was.”

Prentice-Hall, New York, 1978 (Hardcover, 1st edition), pp. 211-212
Bantam Books “mass market [paperback] ed.” published in Sept. 2001, pp. 280-81.
Quote is from paragraphs 8-20, Part 2 “The End of the Pipeline,” Chapter 24

— A Sense of Honor: “… that is, if you knew who your sister was, Brustein, and if she’d been born with anything between her legs except an asshole, I’d be happy to bring some class to your low-rent name by knocking the bitch up.” (p. 223)

Prentice-Hall, New York, 1981 (hardcover)
Bantam, New York, 1982 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 223
Trade paperback edition, Bluejacket Books, 1995, p. 223
Quote is from 17th para in Part 4, “Chapter 7:1930”

— A Sense of Honor: “You wouldn’t have believed it, Swede. She just dropped her britches and lifted up her skirt and pissed like a man. Didn’t lose a drop, either. Not a drop.” (p. 183)

Prentice-Hall, New York, 1981 (hardcover)
Bantam, New York, 1982 (Mass-Market paperback edition), p. 183
Trade paperback edition, Bluejacket Books, 1995, p. 183
Quote is from 23rd para in Part 3, “Chapter 8: 2300”

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, LGBTQ Issues, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bandit says:

    One positive side effect of this will be that the Washington press corps will stop harping on the fact that Webb has written oodles of books, demonstrating how wickedly smart and talented he is.

    Actually they’re just trying to demonstrate how wickedly smart and talented they are. Classic media circle jerk.

  2. Brian J. says:

    And, on the plus side, the sales of those books will now skyrocket (relatively).

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    It’s because they are fiction that they are so revealing of the writer’s psyche. The contents of the books reflect the inner thoughts of this man. I think it’s a valid point to ask if the voters of Virginia want a man who thinks like this to represent them in the Senate, a reputedly august body of “higher” gentlemen.

  4. Michael says:

    I think a far more important question is did the quotes mentioned above fit appropriately into the storyline of the novels? Where they important for setting a scene, or a mood, or giving background or insight into a character or conflict? There is plenty of “classic” literature read by “higher” gentlemen that have lurid or graphic descriptions. A good writer can write about things that do not in fact reflect their inner thoughts, or represent some hidden nature of their own character.

    I just want to know if Webb was any damn good at writing. Many people loved or hated Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” because of it’s controversial content, I hated it because he’s the worst author I’ve read in quite some time. If Webb is a good author, he should be applauded for what he writes.

  5. Walt says:

    Trust me, when it comes to romance books, the writers of the steamier books are not revealing their inner psyches. I should know. I’m married to one of these writers. The only curse word she’s ever used in my nearly ten years of marriage to her have been in the pages of her romance fiction and a recent guide to writing erotic fiction. Hell, she was just interviewed last week when a reporter asked her to comment on a Republican here in Texas accused by her Democratic challenger about writing a romance book with alluring passages. (Texas State Comptroller Race) The Democratic challenger was ridiculed for making such stupid challenges, and rightfully so.

    I mean, if you’re going after the stupid knee-jerk reaction vote, I can see the logic of raising the issue of a fictional penis, but I’m guessing this will most likely backfire with people who can determine fact from fiction.

  6. Michael says:

    I’m guessing this will most likely backfire with people who can determine fact from fiction.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’ve all read, listened to, or watched some work of fiction that involved a character or scene or idea that would in real life be repulsive to us, and yet we enjoyed the fiction of it anyway. To insinuate that a work of fiction reflects an author’s true nature would also imply that it reflects the true nature of anyone who enjoys it.

  7. Bill says:

    Looks like I better not run for public office.(I rather be a sarcastic blogger any day) I have 25 stories(Sci Fi and Fantasy) published on the internet, a few of which contain scenes of people making whoopee but always involving adults!

  8. Anderson says:

    George “N—-r” Allen is upset over demeaning language?

  9. Anderson says:

    Ooh, and Josh Marshall has this:

    If Allen really wants to play rough, maybe it’s time for some Democrats to start going on the shows and asking about that sealed divorce records of Allen’s. All those reporters have a pretty good idea of what’s in there. But Sen. Allen (R-VA) just won’t agree to let them see it.

    That would be fun!

  10. DC Loser says:

    And what about those Albermarle County court blotters with a few “George Felix Allen” entries back in 1974?

  11. ronjazz says:

    Well, it just proves, once again, the depravity of the ReNAMBLAcans. Felix can call folks macaca and nigger in the real world, but Webb writes some fiction and the rightwing morons want it to be real. Virginia voters are even more brain-damaged than Connecticut voters.

  12. Anderson says:

    The sister-bashing line from A Sense of Honor is pretty good, btw.

    But the grabbing-boy-and-putting-penis-in-mouth part is inexplicable out of context (and maybe in, for all I know).

  13. Christopher says:

    Politicians-love ’em or hate ’em. But they are our leaders. What they write is what they write and they expose themselves to appropriate criticism. Walt’s wife and Bill with his sci-fi stories included (published on the Internet, Bill? Wow. lol! Before making such a boast maybe you should actually get in print. Anybody with a keyboard can be “published” on the Internet. I would think you would already know that).

    I think that it is funny Allen gets criticized for exposing this depravity of his opponant, yet what about all the yelling about the no news Mikaka comment that meant nothing? And what about the Democrats going after Foley, who had ALREADY done the right thing and RESIGNED yet somehow the republicans still suffer for it because of the liberal media’s constant reporting of it.

    The only people wholly lacking in morals are the liberals. They live in the gutter and die in the gutter.

  14. Anderson says:

    Context of the Webb p—s s–king quote over at Tapped (I posted a comment linking & quoting, but possibly the p-word, s-word, + link hit the spam filter.

    Short version: happens all the time over there, especially if yo’ mama’s from Manchuria.

  15. Cernig says:

    Jon Henke used to be one of the “good bloggers” – defined as a critic of dumb ideas, first and foremost, because too damn few elsewhere are doing it – then he apparently sold his soul to a campaign that didn’t meet his own standards and now seems to have brought those standards down to meet the campaign rather than vice versa.

    It’s happened before and will happen again on both sides of a partisan divide. Sad. I’d rather be a lefty critic of all and sundry than a bought-and-paid-for Dem mouthpiece, anyday. I’m glad to say I’m not alone, just as there are rightwing bloggers who see their first role as being the kind of informative critic that the Fourth Estate (Fox included, whatever JJ thinks) just doesn’t do very much of anymore.

    Regards, C

  16. Carla Ward says:

    Please get the facts straight. Contrary to your assertion that “Webb successfully stoked the flames on the “Allen is a racist boob” meme and Allen countered by tossing the “Webb is a misogynist jerk” grenade”, the fact is that Webb has NEVER attacked Allen for racism, and his only comment about “macaca” was that Allen was bullying his 20 year old staffer. Webb is on record several times — look it up — as refusing to address the question of whether Allen is a racist and also whether he meant something racial by the macaca comment. Almost the entire flap was the result of a media frenzy created out of Allen’s own mouth and then exacerbated by the reams of people not connected to the Webb campaign who came out of the woodwork when contacted by curious reporters and told the truth about what they knew of George Allen. That some Webb supporters seized upon the opportunity is understandable, but Webb has never behaved as Allen has, eagerly misrepresenting his opponent’s positions and casting aspersions on his character. Has Webb reacted angrily to the attack on his character? Sure, he wouldn’t be human if he hadn’t. But still he asks to talk about the issues, and still Allen hammers again and again on Webb’s character. He’s a punk.

    Oh, and I can tell from what you wrote that you HAVEN’T read Webb’s books, so why don’t you lay off calling them dreck when you are frankly not in a position to know?