D.C. thriller goes above the Beltway, finds success

First-time novelist David Corn proves you don't need a pepper pot to make a page-turner.

Topics: Books,

In the winter of 1997-98, when David Corn was showing his Washington thriller, “Deep Background,” to editors, the prospects for it must have seemed dim. The novelty of Joe Klein’s “Primary Colors,” another D.C. page-turner, had worn thin, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which had the country mesmerized, boasted a plot that few novelists could have invented.

“Editors told me that the book read well and it was fast-paced, but it was behind the headlines,” says Corn, the Washington bureau chief of the Nation (and an occasional contributor to Salon). “What’s murder in the White House when there’s sex in the White House? It seemed tame in comparison.”

But Corn waited out the storm in Washington, and in the end he prevailed. With his first foray into fiction (he is also the author of “Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades”), the 40-year-old writer seems to have found critical and financial success. “Deep Background” recently received glowing reviews in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and its publisher, St. Martin’s, has ordered a rush printing to keep up with sales.

You Might Also Like

Corn’s book focuses less than Klein’s does on dishing thinly veiled figures and more on novelistic invention. At the outset, an assassin blows the president’s brains out and then swallows a poison pill; a whole new grassy knoll of intrigue is afoot in the feverish court intrigue that follows.

Not that it’s all invention. Corn’s president is a Southerner who’s had a land deal go sour. Other characters resemble House GOP conference chairman J.C. Watts, House majority whip Tom DeLay and political consultant Dick Morris. But the novel also features a complicated aide, Nick Addis, through whose conscience we watch the seamier side of Washington come into view.

The president’s wife is a Lady Macbeth who immediately seeks the presidency upon her husband’s death. But Corn claims to be innocent of any allusion, conscious or otherwise: “I wrote that long before the first lady considered running for public office,” he says.

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>