Novel by ‘Anonymous’ Tied to Columnist


Handwritten changes to the manuscript of the novel “Primary Colors,” the wildly successful satire of the 1992 Clinton campaign by an author known only as “Anonymous,” appear to match the handwriting of Newsweek columnist and CBS commentator Joe Klein.

Maureen Casey Owens, a top document examiner and past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, studied Klein’s own handwriting alongside copies of amended manuscript pages and concluded that “the two samples of handwriting are absolutely consistent throughout.”

In the past, Klein vehemently denied being the author of “Primary Colors.” “For God’s sake, definitely, I didn’t write it,” he said in February, and even told a Washington Post editor he would stake his credibility as a journalist on it.


He didn’t deny it Tuesday, however. Confronted by telephone with the handwriting analysis, a vacationing Klein at first asked for five minutes’ grace, then called back to say, “I have no comment.” Asked if he wrote the novel, he ended the phone call by saying, “I’ve said everything I have to say.”

The quest for the author riveted political circles last winter, especially after President Clinton teased the press corps by saying it was “the only secret I’ve seen kept in Washington in three years.” More than 1.1 million copies of the novel are in print in this country alone. A big-budget Hollywood movie is in development.

The mystery began to unravel with the help, first, of a secondhand bookseller, who offered for sale a bound manuscript of “Primary Colors” dated April 1995--just after Random House acquired it. Marked “CONFIDENTIAL. For your eyes only!! Do not distribute to booksellers!!” the typescript carries brief passages of handwriting on several pages.

From another source, the Post obtained several pages of Klein’s own handwriting.

The Post then hired Owens, for many years the chief document examiner for the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory, who frequently testifies about handwriting comparisons in court. “There is nothing I see that is divergent,” she said. “Everything is in agreement.”

While handwriting analysis is not as scientific as, say, fingerprinting, Owens noted that “we’ve never found two people who write exactly the same. Even twins.”

Kathy Robbins, the agent for both Anonymous and Klein, declined to comment Tuesday. The book’s editor, Daniel Menaker, and Random House Publisher Harold Evans both suggested that they may have written the notes on the manuscript. However, neither would provide a sample of his own penmanship for comparison.


“Let’s leave the mystery open,” Evans said. “You go and do the story. It’s fine by me.” The publisher has always said he did not know the identity of the author.

Klein was mentioned as a suspect in the very first stories about “Primary Colors,” more than a year ago. Then--partly because the novel contains an unflattering portrait of a reporter who resembles Klein--the case for his candidacy flagged.

Published in late January, “Primary Colors” had a first printing of 62,000 copies, a good but not great number for a commercial novel. Random House, as the cover of the April 1995 manuscript reveals, always intended to milk the whodunit angle. The cover announces a “publicity campaign to tie in with presidential primaries--copies to press covering the candidates, political columnists and opinion-makers, and a guess-who campaign pitched to national TV, radio and print.”

Interest in the book developed into a frenzy that astonished even hardened publishing veterans. With royalties, paperback, movie and foreign rights, the book will earn its author at least $6 million.