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Please recommend a great Washington, D.C. political thriller.
January 10, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Book filter: can you recommend a good political/journalistic novel set in Washington, D.C. that meet the following criteria?

I just watched State of Play (I've seen the original British miniseries too), and it makes me want to read a good political/journalistic novel set in Washington, D.C. -- something like All the President's Men. I'm looking for the kind of fiction where an investigative reporter starts exploring a story and slowly realizes that it goes deeper than expected, that it's the tip of a big scandal involving powerful people, the reporter realizes his/her life is in danger, etc. Doesn't necessarily have to be a journalist: an innocent person caught up in something big.

I'd love not just a great plot but also great, realistic characters, something that really gives you a feel for how Washington, D.C. works, the intersection between politics and the press, maybe old journalism vs. new journalism, the people who live and work in the D.C. area, the history of the city, etc. The great Washington novel.

Bonus points if it's current (i.e. 1990s to today) although if it's really good, then older is okay.
posted by Tin Man to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of the classics of this genre is Six Days of the Condor, which was made in the movie, "Three Days of the Condor", starring Robert Redford as the unsuspecting person sucked into something big. Not contemporary, but good.
posted by djfiander at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2010


You might try Advise and Consent by Philip Drury. It's from 1959, though. It also has several sequels, which I've never read.
posted by jgirl at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2010


Thanks. I guess the plot need not be as specific as I described - any sort of poliical drama might fit the bill.
posted by Tin Man at 4:22 PM on January 10, 2010


The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer.

The Inside Ring by Mike Lawson.

The Rules of the Game by Leonard Downie, Jr.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:23 PM on January 10, 2010


Ward Just, Echo House, possibly. More of a roman fleuve, a little languid, but does the behind the scenes power bit. Not a thriller, though.

Brian McGrory, The Incumbent. More thrillerish, with the plot holes to prove it. But it covers the other requirements I think.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2010


It's not a perfect book, but you might enjoy The Emperor of Ocean Park.
posted by craichead at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2010


Only barely touching your criteria, but George Pelecanos is basically the great Washington novelist.
posted by General Malaise at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2010


George Pelecanos is basically the great Washington novelist.
He may be (mostly because there's not a ton of competition), but he is fairly militant about the fact that he doesn't write the kind of book that the OP wants to read. He's not interested in national politics.
posted by craichead at 5:01 PM on January 10, 2010


Obviously not a book, but you might dig the BBC miniseries The State Within if you liked the original State of Play - it focuses on the British ambassador to the U.S. in the midst of a major diplomatic incident, and most of the action takes place in D.C. (The two shows aren't related, just similarly titled.)
posted by Ponsonby Britt at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2010


More of a roman fleuve

Did you mean "roman à clef"? A roman fleuve is a series of interconnected novels, like The Forsyte Saga or À la recherche du temps perdu.

I wouldn't describe Echo House as a roman à clef--the main characters have some similarities with the Kennedys, some with the Rockefellers, and some with the Dulleseseseses, but it's not like Primary Colors or anything.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:10 PM on January 10, 2010


Try Twilight at Mac's Place, by Ross Thomas. He wrote a couple of dozen crime novels, all of them excellent, many of them set in or based around Washington and politics. He worked there and knew that world well (and he may have been a spy). This one is about a memoir that may give away too many secrets and people in power don't want it to get out. Great stuff. All his books are filled with double-crosses, cons, high-level shenanigans, and humour.
posted by wdenton at 8:14 PM on January 10, 2010


Seconding The Tenth Justice and also recommending The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer.

I'd also recommend Margaret Truman's Capital Crimes mysteries.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:12 PM on January 10, 2010


There's a book called The 28th Amendment that's advertised on a website about The West Wing (the show), which might be a good sign.

Also, there are Barbara Boxer's novels, A Time to Run and Blind Trust. (I maintain: Barbara Boxer (co)writes political thrillers? wtf?)

I can't vouch for how good (or bad) these are, but they seem to be approximately the right genre.
posted by sentient at 12:22 AM on January 11, 2010


The Contender, for Joan Allen's portrayal of a senator being attacked by a whispering campaign.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:36 AM on January 11, 2010


Thanks, everyone. This gives me some books to check out.
posted by Tin Man at 12:26 PM on January 11, 2010


Perhaps The People's Choice: A Novel by Jeff Greenfield would work. I haven't read it in quite a while, but I remember enjoying it.
posted by bryon at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2010


A roman fleuve is a series of interconnected novels, like The Forsyte Saga or À la recherche du temps perdu.

Often more than one, but not necessarily - the definition has relaxed a bit since it was first coined. Broad sweep of time and generations - thus, most of, say, Michener's work, or Edward Rutherford. Which is what I was getting at.

And you're right, Echo House is definitely not a roman a cle
posted by IndigoJones at 2:29 PM on January 11, 2010


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