cover image Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years

Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years

Thomas Mallon. Pantheon, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-307-90792-9

In this novel, Mallon (Watergate) fixes his wide-angle historical lens on the presidency of Ronald Reagan, in particular the events leading up to the exposé of the Iran-Contra affair in 1986. As befitting the author’s usual literary mode, Reagan himself is a minor character in his own story. The major characters include such real-life personalities as rising English journalist Christopher Hitchens, the much-married English socialite Pamela Harriman, and would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr. Worked in among these are several fictional characters, including Anders Little, an arms-control expert with a sexual secret; his friend, Anne Macmurray, an anti-nukes advocate; and her dying ex-husband, Peter Cox, a Texas contributor to Republican candidates. And of course, hovering in the background is “tan, rested and ready” Richard Milhouse Nixon in all his tragic Shakespearean glory, ever trying to restore his blackened legacy. Although largely plotless, the novel boasts a telephone book–sized cast of characters and fits them inside a chronicle large enough to encompass the Reagan-era gay revisionism of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and the gossip of Truman Capote’s “La Cote Basque, 1965.” What Mallon does best is dramatize the bizarre ’80s intersection of Hollywood and Washington, D.C., as equal weight is given to Merv Griffin and Eva Gabor as to Pat Buchanan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, creating in the process a crazy, quilted depiction of a contradiction-filled presidential administration. (Sept.)