Beinhart’s 2004 novel is a barely veiled morality tale about the presidency of George Bush, 9/11, and the rising power of government via Homeland Security and the USA PATRIOT Act. Beinhart’s president is Scott. He is running against Dr. Anne Murphy, who, unlike Scott, served time in Vietnam as a combat nurse. Like Scott, she is well versed in television, having been a host for her own talk show. The story opens with the billionaire Alan Stowe’s desire to create a legacy through his personal library, for which he hires a librarian. When she disappears, David Goldberg, a university librarian looking for summer work, takes up the task. Stowe’s cronies, steeped in paranois, believe he’s a spy for the Murphy campaign, and we’re off and running. One of the best scenes of the novel involves a number of wealthy Republican men and their women watching the covering of a thoroughbred mare. Not exactly a subtle commentary on gender and power, but memorable.
The scariest part about this book is that I found myself believing it possible–that people in power would desire so immensely to stay in power that they would engineer a major catastrophe to make that continuation in power certain.
Beinhart leaves the election undecided and puts the burden on the reader to rally, to lobby, and to just plain wake up. Sadly, I don’t know if we have.