"The Gay Place" by Billy Lee Brammer
A trilogy of novellas by a Texas political operative and newspaperman who never published another book of fiction—and probably didn’t need to, given how this one has endured as an object of cult admiration. Brammer’s heroes—idealistic, if sodden and weak-willed—bob upon the boozy legislative waves of Austin and its environs, a realm dominated by Governor Arthur Fenstermaker, a fictional refraction of the real-life Lyndon Johnson.
"The Haldeman Diaries" by H. R. Haldeman
An account that’s both extremely compelling and tonally weird (all at once intimate and eerily detached) of day-to-day life in the Nixon White House. Long before the Watergate spiral begins, the President (usually abbreviated as “P”) inspires fidelity, worry, and unease.
"Miami And The Siege Of Chicago" by Norman Mailer
One of Mailer’s best pieces of New Journalism, a worthy follow-up to the more famous Armies of the Night; a peerlessly energetic account of two political conventions and the streets outside the arenas in which they took place. Written at the point in his career when reportage seemed more urgent and full of possibility than the novel, the genre in which he’d made his name, this book displays politics not as a matter of procedure and gridlock but as the passionate, sometimes dark heart of the human condition.
"Lincoln" by Gore Vidal
A massive, sly novel that approaches Lincoln with fascination instead of reverence, forcing the reader to weigh several different characters’ views of the President, one against the other, in order to gain something like an understanding of him. An affecting but unsentimental portrait of Civil War Washington from the author who, during the 1960s, restored wit to the moribund genre of historical fiction.
"Washington" by Katharine Graham
A deftly chosen anthology of memoirs and history that spans several different eras. The selections made by Mrs. Graham, the longtime doyenne of Washington journalism, show how presidencies and congresses come and go, while the capital’s more permanent populations continue living according to their own cultural rhythms.
About Thomas Mallon
Thomas Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Watergate, Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, and Fellow Travelers, and seven works of nonfiction. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.
His latest book is Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years.