by The Librarian
In addition to being the book that gave birth to the Washington D.C. political thriller, Advise and Consent and its sequels are the books that awakened my love of novels. I stayed up many nights engrossed in these books and am yet to find a writer who can capture my imagination more than Allen Drury.
Though born in Houston, he grew up in Porterville and got his start as a writer for the Porterville Bee. He then climbed the journalistic ladder by working with the Bakersfield Californian, then Pathfinder magazine followed by The Washington Evening Star, the New York Times and finally The Reader’s Digest.
Allen Drury was one of the more popular writers in America from 1959 until his death in 1998. However, his books were out of print for over 15 years, so there is a whole generation of readers that hardly knows his work at all.
His first novel, Advise and Consent, was published in 1959 and spent 102 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (for some perspective on the scope of this success, note that John Grisham’s The Firm was the bestselling novel of 1991 and was only on the same list for 47 weeks) and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1960. It was also made into a movie that starred Henry Fonda in 1962 and won Burgess Meredith the NBR Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Advise and Consent is a political thriller inspired by the author’s experience for more than two decades as a political correspondent in Washington D.C. It follows the tales of the corruption, intrigue and ambition of key political figures all the way up to the President of the United States. Written by a true insider, the story has a very realistic tone and is said to be based largely upon real-life characters in Washington. The eerie thing is that it was written over 55 years ago but is so relevant that it almost could have been written yesterday.
The title refers to the statement in the U.S. Constitution that gives the Senate the responsibility to advise the president about nominees and the authority to consent to either approve or reject those nominations. The story starts with the controversial nomination by the president of liberal Robert Leffingwell to be Secretary of State and the conservatives’ fight to oppose the nomination. It quickly escalates to such levels of scandal, intrigue, sex, death and blackmail that the modern reader could be forgiven, if the names of the characters were changed, for thinking they were reading the script for a season of House of Cards.
Advise and Consent is the first of a bestselling series of six novels spanning the careers of four U.S. Presidents, though not all the presidents’ careers end naturally. In fact, later in the series two men run for president in an exciting campaign that the reader will follow with baited breath until one of the candidates is suddenly assassinated.
Then the last two books follow two alternate timelines; one in which it was the conservative candidate who was assassinated and the liberal one becomes president, and one in which the liberal candidate turns out to be the one who died and the conservative one becomes president.
Allen Drury was unapologetically conservative in his political views. This means that his books will tend to be especially loved by conservative readers because they will tend to agree with the books’ indictments of liberal news media and liberal politicians. However, his books have also been embraced by liberals who disagree completely with his politics but find his stories so well-written and engrossing that they forgive him for his politicizing. So regardless of your own political views, you will likely find these books so intriguing that you won’t want to put them down.
In addition to being the novel that gave birth to the genre of the political thriller, Advise and Consent has also been said to be one of the best and most accurate portrayals of the political world of Washington D.C. ever written. In addition to being fascinated and intrigued, after many sleepless nights readers will find themselves much more able to understand the workings of government and may find themselves nodding knowingly while listening to the latest news from Washington.
Many who are old enough will remember Allen Drury well. Some, like this writer, will have been lucky enough to find one of his books in a pile of used books somewhere and been introduced to the joy of great novels. For most younger people, however, his masterpieces of fiction are still covered with dust in the library of forgotten books.
There is good news however. After over 15 years out of print, the entire series was re-released last year by WordFire Press in both paperback and kindle formats. Look for it on amazon.com or at your local bookstore today. You won’t be disappointed!
Check out other mystery and fantasy related articles, reviews & short stories in our Books & Tales category.