Synopses & Reviews
Washington, D.C., in the early 1950s: a world of bare-knuckled ideology, hard drinking, and secret dossiers, dominated by such outsized characters as Richard Nixon, Drew Pearson, Perle Mesta, and Joe McCarthy. Into this fevered city steps Timothy Laughlin, a recent Fordham graduate and devout Catholic eager to join the crusade against Communism. A chance encounter with a handsome, profligate State Department official, Hawkins Fuller, leads to Tim's first job in D.C. and after Fuller's advances his first love affair. Now, as McCarthy mounts an increasingly desperate bid for power and internal investigations focus on "sexual subversives" in the government, Tim and Fuller find it ever more dangerous to navigate their double lives. Drawn into a maelstrom of deceit and intrigue, and clinging to the friendship of a beautiful young woman named Mary Johnson, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions, his love for God, and his love for Fuller an entanglement that will end in a stunning act of betrayal.
Moving between the Senate Office Building and the Washington Evening Star, the diplomatic world of Foggy Bottom and NATO's front line in Europe, Fellow Travelers is energized by high political drama, unexpected humor, and genuine heartbreak. It is Thomas Mallon's most accomplished and daring novel to date.
"McCarthy-era Washington, D.C., is as twisted and morally compromised as a noir Los Angeles in Mallon's latest, a wide-ranging examination of betrayal and clashing ideologies. The young ladies in the secretary pool are agog over dapper bureaucrat Hawkins Fuller, though his attentions covertly focus on newly minted Fordham graduate and good Catholic Tim Laughlin. Hawkins helps Tim land a job and, after feeling out the impressionable young man, makes a place in his bed for him. Mary Johnson, a friend to both closeted men, watches with rising alarm as Tim and Hawkins carry on their affair and Washington seethes in paranoia over Communists and 'sexual deviation.' Mary, meanwhile, succumbs to her own lustful yearnings and has an affair with a married businessman, leading to a predictable, though deftly played, quandary. The District's social milieu is solidly realized, with such period icons as Mary McGrory and Drew Pearson in evidence alongside political heavyweights McCarthy, Kennedy, Nixon and the like. Less convincing, however, is the on-again-off-again and largely one-sided relationship between Washington greenhorn Tim and cold, calculating careerist Hawkins. Mallon (Bandbox; Dewey Defeats Truman) offers an intricate, fluent and divergent perspective on a D.C. rife with backstabbing and power grabbing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The weakness of many historical novels is that the history is reduced to a theme park in which the characters cavort but represents little more. The historical import of McCarthyism helps Mallon avoid that pitfall to a significant degree: The personalities of his characters are securely tied to the environment in which they exist and represent varied potential responses to it." Chicago Tribune
"[A]n enthrallingly detailed and disturbingly relevant look at a bottom-barrel-scraping time in American history." Miami Herald
"This is Mallon's best historical novel, period, and better than most contemporary novels of any stripe." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[A] compelling tale and a convincing picture of an era in which the most important wardrobe item for many in Washington was a mask." St. Petersburg Times
"The political drama, colorful characters, betrayals, and backstabbing of Washington politicians come alive in this recommended historical novel." Library Journal
From the highly acclaimed author of Bandbox and Dewey Defeats Truman comes a searing historical novel about the competing claims of faith, love, and politics during the McCarthy era.
About the Author
Thomas Mallon is the author of two previous novels, Aurora 7 and Arts and Sciences, as well as four works of nonfiction, among them Stolen Words and A Books of One's Own. He is currently literary editor of Gentlemen's Quarterly. He lives in New York City.