Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years
Adding to a fiction chronicle that has already spanned American history from the Lincoln assassination to the Watergate scandal, Thomas Mallon now brings to life the tumultuous administration of the most consequential and enigmatic president in modern times. Finale captures the crusading ideologies, blunders, and glamour of the still-hotly-debated Reagan years, taking readers to the political gridiron of Washington, the wealthiest enclaves of Southern California, and the volcanic landscape of Iceland, where the president engages in two almost apocalyptic days of negotiation with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Along with Soviet dissidents, illegal-arms traders, and antinuclear activists, the novel s memorable characters include Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, Pamela Harriman, John W. Hinckley, Jr. (Reagan s would-be assassin), and even Bette Davis, with whom the president had long ago appeared onscreen. Several figures including a humbled, crafty Richard Nixon; the young, brilliantly acerbic Christopher Hitchens; and an anxious, astrology-dependent Nancy Reagan (on the verge of a terrible realization) become the eyes through which readers see the last convulsions of the Cold War, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and a political revolution.
At the center of it all but forever out of reach is Ronald Reagan himself, whose genial remoteness confounds his subordinates, his children, and the citizens who elected him. Finale is the book that Thomas Mallon s work has been building toward for years.
"**A"New York Times"Notable Book of 2015** The New York Times Book Review" Mallon is a poised storyteller who traffics in history s ironic creases. His novels don t upend conventional wisdom so much as remind us that history is a rickety architecture of human endeavor that today s statues commemorate yesterday s frail and fumbling mortals . . . Finale represents Mallon s most audacious and important work yet . . . Mallon s portrayal of the first lady is humane, thoroughly convincing and counts as one of the book s triumphs. So is his presentation of Richard Nixon, with whom Finale opens, rather unexpectedly . . . As in his previous novels, Mallon works deftly with an ensemble cast, employing both real-life and fictitious characters . . . [a] galloping narrative. "Wall Street Journal" Thomas Mallon has carved an impressive place for himself in the art of historical fiction, a genre whose august forerunners include Tolstoy s War and Peace and Lampedusa s The Leopard . . . Mr. Mallon has cautioned, in the author s note to his earlier novel Dewey Defeats Truman (1997): Nouns trump adjectives, and in the phrase historical fiction it is important to remember which of the two words is which. He handles the distinction expertly, but part of the pleasure of reading him is deciding when the author is fudging historical fact. Finale offers a certifiable slice of the recent past but teases its readers with subtle fictionalization . . . It is high-calorie stuff, and Mr. Mallon handles it with an easy mastery. "AV Club" Amid a presidential campaign of stupefying banality, where candidates compete to say the emptiest sentiment in the least insightful way possible, what a pleasure it is to enter the rough-and-tumble politics of Thomas Mallon s historical novels. The elites of 80s government and media didn t need soundbites: They had passions .Mallon captures that uncertain tenor of the times while portraying the complex drama of high-level politics with real clarity and energy. His take on W. can t come soon enough. "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" Mr. Mallon can twist language like a knife .[he] skillfully interweaves the personal and the political .It s weirdly comforting to read a novel in which the characters are so familiar. Mr. Mallon s vivid take on this period in American politics rings true. He effectively gets inside his cahracters heads, too. "Washington Post" Illustrates the strength of Mallon s ability to cast even high-profile politicians as fellow humans .Wicked good, that Thomas Mallon. "Christian Science Monitor" Thomas Mallon takes this human clay and, after adding a dash of inspired inner dialogue, sculpts characters who embody the folly and frustration of political power. And, for good measure, Mallon s characters never forget the striving required in the struggle for continued relevancy . . . Mallon has become a master of such political theater . . . What makes Mallon s novels so much fun is the author s blend of historical exactitude with imagined reactions and machinations. Many of those machinations play out in the plausible guise of fictional secondary players . . . Mallon fits all of these pieces together, combining broad historical accuracy and fictional verisimilitude with aplomb. Characters historical and fictional alike display bonfires of vanities, and insecurities, galore. "O Magazine" Gorbachev, Thatcher, the Gipper himself the gang s all here and ready to party like it s 1986 in this propulsive and often very funny novel that portrays political upheaval through the eyes of some of recent history s most formidable players. "Ricochet" Thomas Mallon may be our generation s Allen Drury the top fictional chronicler of political life in Washington, D.C. ""St. Louis Post-Dispatch"" This interesting and well-written book focuses on 1986 a year that proved to be Reagan sannus horribilis . . .At the front of the book, writer Mallon gives readers a cast-of-characters list. It teems with 99 characters all but nine of them real-life people. And what a real-life variety!"""""Dallas Morning News"" Like any historical novelist, Thomas Mallon can ride the fact train when he wants and jump off when he pleases, and perhaps only the most rigorous scholar of Reagan s time will know exactly where the research ends and the inventing starts. But even readers who don t remember the waning days of the Cold War will find masterful performances, by the author and by his subject, inFinale. """Publishers Weekly" 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. "Kirkus Reviews, "(starred review) An intriguing, humorous, even catty backstage view of the Reagan presidency from an artisan of the historical novel . . . Historical fiction at this high level satisfies the appetite for speculation or even titillation through restraint as much as research . . . Mallon s version of history is close enough to fact to revive faded memories, while his imagining of who thought and said what presents some of the coherence and delights of fiction. "Booklist, ("starred review) Despite all the scene-jumping, the transitions are seamless; there s a whirlwind of activity and abundant snappy dialogue . . . Mallon has crafted a scrupulously researched novel that gives readers a front-row seat on world-changing events a combination that proves irresistible. "From the Hardcover edition.""
THOMAS MALLON is the author of nine novels, including Henry and Clara, Dewey Defeats Truman, Fellow Travelers, and Watergate. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and The Atlantic, and in 2011 he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for prose style. He has been the literary editor of GQ and the deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He lives in Washington, D.C.