The Solomon Scandals
The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large

The Schmidoffs’ windmill burned down in 1908 in Lipnick, Russia. An upshot was a real estate empire half a planet away, including Crystal City, the huge office and residential complex across the highway from Reagan National Airport. How did it happen? A rabbi saw the fire and other events as signs for the Schmidoffs to […]

The review of Conversations with Papa Charlie is still set for this week—most likely Thursday or Friday—along with some related observations on charity, one of the topics of the book. I wanted to run it earlier but was unavoidably delayed. Memo to self: Remember the Jefferson quote. At least from afar, it would appear to […]

Housekeeping: The review of Conversations with Papa Charlie, the David Bruce Smith book, about his grandfather, Charles E. Smith, may come Monday rather than today. Stay tuned for a write-up on a new Georgetown newspaper. – D.R. Newest update, Jan. 11, 2010: Perhaps as late as Thursday. Simply a matter of my schedule. I’d rather […]

“The commonest axiom of history is that every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” So wrote Lewis Mumford, a deity in fields ranging from urban studies to architectural and art criticism. And that’s the epigraph at the front of Conversations with Papa Charlie: A Memory of Charles E. Smith, by […]

How did the sprawling Crystal City complex, near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, get its name? In the 1960s, developer Robert H. Smith dressed up his first apartment building there with a chandelier in the lobby, and soon the name spread to other Smith properties. It was, as I see it, a perfect example of […]

Scandals at one level is a beach read, a mix of a thriller and novel of manners. But at another, it’s about bureaucratic laxness, which can kill workers—not just drain investors’ bank accounts. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico makes Scandals all the more timely. Penny-pinching proved to be lethal. – D.R. […]

A friend and I had just seen a movie with a soft-spoken and obscenity-free editor, a balding Boy Scout of the city room. Now she wondered if my novel hadn’t sinned in making such a wild character out of George McWilliams, editor at the fictitious Washington Telegram. Her message couldn’t have been clearer. Ben Bradlee, […]

Sy Solomon, the real estate millionaire in The Solomon Scandals, never existed. Like many of the characters in my novel, he is a composite. The late Charles E. Smith, however, the founder of the construction company of the same name, would have been the most like Solomon. He and associates controlled at least $150 million […]

Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, the late Connecticut senator who also served in President John F. Kennedy’s cabinet, secretly held a $20,000 investment in a GSA-leased building that the CIA moved into. My story for States News Service, reproduced below, appeared in the New Haven Register on May 29, 1975, and later made the NBC Nightly News. […]