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Posts Tagged ‘Irving Wallace’

Section of dust jacket for *The Plot* shows Paris site of peace conference at night.

The Plot is a novel about a handful of characters trying to recreate their picture of themselves at their best.

It’s set against the background of a Paris conference aimed at keeping China from acquiring a nuclear bomb.


The Plot: A Novel by Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster, 1967. 828 p. 1967 bestseller #8. My grade: B.

The story is, as blurb-writers say, “ambitious” and “monumental” — which means slow-starting and agonizingly complex.

Irving Wallace is a good story-teller, but there’s simply too much story to tell in one novel.

The lead character, Matthew Brennan, is an American who worked for the State Department until wrongfully accused of treason. He’s in Paris hoping to get one of the two people who can clear his name to speak for him.

Former political columnist Jay Thomas Doyle is in Paris to see his old girl friend who knows the man who can say who really killed JFK — and give Doyle material for a book to resuscitate his career.

The old girl friend is writing color pieces for a news service at the Paris Summit.

There’s also a heart-of-gold whore trying to get home to England, an incompetent who was America’s president at the time of Brennan’s troubles, and a host of other characters too numerous to remember.

Few readers who aren’t baby boomers or older will have the background knowledge to appreciate this great-in-the-day novel.

©  2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

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American flag waving in breeze

Since today is election day in the United States, I thought I’d roundup some bestsellers that deal with the political election process.

Like so any of my good ideas, it underestimated the problems it entailed.

Coming up with a list of good political novels from the bestselling lists of the first six decades of the twentieth century is harder than it sounds. There are plenty of novels that show the impact of decisions by political officials, but not a great many that dive into the business of electoral politics.

The 1964 bestseller by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II,  Convention, would appear a logical choice but for one thing: It wasn’t a particularly good novel then, and it has dated badly.

My short list of titles that are focused on electoral politics are:

Coniston is a 1906 work by the American novelist Winston Churchill about an uneducated, stuttering county boy who becomes a backroom force in mid-1800 New Hampshire politics.

Churchill’s portrait of Jethro Bass is as good as any from the pen of Anthony Trollope or Thomas Hardy.  My review won’t be coming up here until 2016, but you’re welcome to read ahead.

The Man is Irvin Wallace’s 1964 bestseller about America’s first Black president, which I reviewed here earlier this year. The story has premonitions of this month’s news.

A Lion Is in the Streets by Adria Locke Langley is a 1945 novel written from the perspective of the wife of a charismatic Southern politician. (Imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton writing a novel about her marriage and you’ll see the possibilities.)

After James Cagney paid a quarter million dollars for its film rights, The New York Times described Langley’s novel as “lurid.” It might have been lurid for The Gray Lady in 1950, but it’s pretty tame today.  My review of A Lion Is in the Streets comes out in 2015.

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Photo credit: Linda Aragoni

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Psychology and politics, or more accurately the psychology of people in political conflicts, are the topics of three of my favorites of the 1964 bestsellers:  Armageddon by Leon Uris, The Man by Irving Wallace, and The Martyred by Richard E. Kim.

Oddly enough, the central characters of each of these novels are not themselves memorable.

Armageddon is a fictional account of the Berlin airlift. The effort’s mastermind controls the action from off stage. What readers remember is the incredible ingenuity and endurance of the mass of unnamed men and women who made the airlift succeed.

The Man is a fictional account of a run-of-the-mill senator shocked into rising to the occasion when, through no effort or desire of his own, he becomes America’s first black President. Douglass Dilman’s very ordinariness makes the story memorable and him forgettable: I can picture scenes from the novel vividly, but had to go back to look up the title character’s name.

The Martyred also turns around a character whose personality is less memorable than those of the less pivotal characters: South Korean Army Capt. Lee.

Lee puts his brain power into discovering what happened to a group of South Korean pastors when they were captured by the Communists.  The intellectually understandable facts provide no explanation. The pastors’ behaviors arose from fear, love, and faith rather than from facts. Thus their behavior is comprehensible only through sympathy and insight.

If you want a real brain workout, read and compare these three novels.

That will keep you off the streets until the snow melts in Maine.

 

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gpWhiteHouse

The title character of The Man is a U.S. Senator horrified along with the rest of the nation to realize he has become American’s first black president.

Douglass Dilman has never made waves politically; he’s never felt secure enough to attempt to do so. He’s not even been able to get up courage to propose to the woman he’s loved for five years.

His party’s elite think Dilman will fall into line as US President as he did as Senate President, but just in case, they draft a bill that prohibits the executive from firing a Cabinet member without the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

Dilman lets the bill become law without his signature; it’s his first, tiny act of personal political responsibility, and one that will lead to his impeachment.

Irving Wallace didn’t imagine Dilman as an elected black president, but that’s one of the few details of the story that don’t read like news from the post-LBJ years: Tussles between the US and Russia over fledgling African democracies, threats of presidential impeachment, blacks’ resentment of a black president who doesn’t support them over whites.

Everything Wallace gets right in the novel, points out everything that’s still wrong in America.

And that’s why, beyond its marvelously well-told story, The Man is worth reading once more.

The Man
By Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster, 1964
766 pages
1964 bestseller #5
My grade: A-

Photo credit: White House, Washington, DC, November 2006 by t http://www.sxc.hu/photo/658257

© 2014 Linda Gorton Araagoni

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Stockholm by Night

Stockholm by Night

In The Prize, Irving Wallace knits threads about Cold War political intrigue, Nazi atrocities, gutter press journalism, and the Nobel Prize awards into a complex yarn that ends with no loose ends.

The main character is the year’s literature recipient, Andrew Craig, an American novelist who traded his pencil for a bottle after his wife died in a car crash with him at the wheel. In Stockholm, Andrew falls for a girl brought up by her uncle, the physics honoree, after her parents perished at the hands of the Nazis. Andrew discovers Emily has some war stories of her own.

Other Nobel winners who figure in the story are a French husband-wife research team and an American doctor with a chip on his shoulder big enough to require psychiatric removal.

The secondary characters are presented with broad strokes; the main characters are only slightly more individuals. But Wallace uses the history of the Nobel Prize to tie all the disparate threads together, making the implausible plot seem as inevitable as the annual awards themselves.

The ending seems a bit too pat and romantic; however, it’s hard to see how a novel about the world’s most illustrious award could be anything but romantic.

The Prize
Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster, 1962
768 pages
1962 Bestseller #8
My grade: B+
Photo of Stockholm by Night uploaded by Wyrls
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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