Help me find a good, realistic political novel
September 17, 2011 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a realistic political novel that's not a spy thriller.

The recent GOP debates have put me in an election mood. I'm wondering if there are any good political novels out there that deal with a campaign that aren't necessarily thrillers.

I'm thinking of the final season of The West Wing or the movie The Contender or even, dare I say it, something like Swing Vote. Examples from real life would include the 2000 Florida recount or the Democrats almost having a contentious convention in 2008.

A search of political novels on Amazon brings up all kinds of espionage and military craziness; one "Pug Connors" novel had California seceding. That's not what I'm looking for.

I imagine someone will recommend Primary Colors or Game Changer, but I'd prefer fiction.

Does what I'm thinking of even exist?
posted by Flying Saucer to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Robet Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson may be what you're looking for.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on September 17, 2011

All the King's Men sounds like a good fit. With the big caveat that it's not just about electoral politics.
posted by eisenkr at 9:19 AM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Although it's about the politics of a different era (the pre-Civil Rights South), I think that All the King's Men might be what you're looking for. It takes the political and personal motivations of the characters seriously, and does what I thought was a really accurate job of portraying the relationships between a powerful politician and the people around him.

Technically, Primary Colors is fiction, but it's also terrible.

On a lighter note, I'd recommend Al Franken's "Why Not Me," which chronicles his fictional campaign for President. There's a fair bit of slapstick (at one point, the candidate's brother takes a two-by-four and tries to give other candidates a severe case of "board poisoning"), but I think Franken's a pretty thoughtful guy about politics.
posted by burden at 9:21 AM on September 17, 2011

Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire Series.
posted by caek at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Gore Vidal, how about a play?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2011

Larry L King's "The One Eyed Man"
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:01 AM on September 17, 2011

It's nonfiction, but I'd recommend A Prayer for the City, H. G. Bissinger's book about Ed Rendell as the mayor of Philadelphia, and Boss, Mike Royko's book about Chicago's Mayor Daley.
posted by eisenkr at 10:26 AM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been recommended (the pretty famous) Advise and Consent, but it wasn't really to my taste.

Wikipedia has a list of:

Politics in Fiction
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:40 AM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scott Simon (of NPR fame) writes novels, one of which, Windy City, is about Chicago politics.
posted by dhartung at 12:00 PM on September 17, 2011

Best answer: A couple that might fit the bill, although they're not recent:

Promises To Keep is a thinly disguised look at what might have happened if JFK had survived the assassination attempt.

Favorite Son is full of political intrigue.
posted by veedubya at 12:07 PM on September 17, 2011

Also, if British politics is of any interest to you, you could try almost anything by Michael Dobbs. Start with House Of Cards and To Play The King.
posted by veedubya at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I especially like David Edgar's play "Continental Divide" (actually two plays, "Daughters of the Revolution" and "Mothers Against").
posted by brainwane at 6:28 PM on September 17, 2011

The Last Hurrah is the best book ever about big city ward heeler politics. Also great fun.

Primary Colors is a novel. Game Change is written like one, but is not.

All the King's Men is a classic of the genre. And damnit, now I have to go reread it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:07 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you read any Jeffrey Archer? His novels tend to be a bit farther-reaching (ie, a life rather than one political campaign) but many of them include at least one campaign. The Prodigal Daughter is a good one for politics, and I found it had a similar mood to the last season of The West Wing.

(Caveat: his books are political beach reading, and I wouldn't describe them as "realistic;" but they're engaging and fun and don't have any spies.)
posted by equivocator at 9:07 PM on September 17, 2011

Like "All the King's Men" and "The One-Eyed Man," Billy Lee Brammer's "The Gay Place" is a true classic American political novel (written before the word gay changed meaning), by a Texan who worked for Lyndon Johnson. They're all classics, as I said, and unlike some of the other recommendations, they're extremely well written.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:23 AM on September 18, 2011

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a political scifi trilogy that I haven't read but that sounds good and plausible:

Forty Signs Of Rain
Fifty Degrees Below
Sixty Days And Counting
posted by brainwane at 12:35 PM on September 18, 2011

I'd recommend Big If by Mark Costello. I learned more about Get Out the Vote operations (GOTV) from that book than any nonfiction I've read. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002.
posted by mattbucher at 8:57 AM on September 19, 2011

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