It's 1950s Washington, D.C.: a world of bare-knuckled ideology and secret dossiers, dominated by personalities like Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Joe McCarthy. Enter Timothy Laughlin, a recent college graduate and devout Catholic eager to join the crusade against Communism. An encounter with a handsome State Department official, Hawkins Fuller, leads to Tim's first job and, after Fuller's advances, his first love affair. As McCarthy mounts a desperate bid for power and internal investigations focus on “sexual subversives” in the government, Tim and Fuller find it ever more dangerous to navigate their double lives. Moving between the diplomatic world of Foggy Bottom and NATO's front line in Europe, Fellow Travelers is a searing historical novel infused with political drama, unexpected humor, and genuine heartbreak.
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.