cover image Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers

Thomas Mallon, . . Pantheon, $25 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42348-2

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. (May)