Meet Taylor Mark: a recent college graduate who has moved to Washington, D.C., to work for John Grayson, the less-than-brilliant congressman from his home district in southern California. Inadequately prepared for life among D.C.'s movers and shakers, Taylor quickly learns that Washington is a city where deals are made behind closed doors. And there's no one better to teach him -- and Grayson -- that lesson than Chase Latham, Taylor's former college roommate and the son of a powerful lobbyist. To Chase, the Beltway's bars, restaurants, town houses, and government offices are one big, debauched playground -- a land of milk and honey where secrets are currency, the sex is bipartisan, and rules and boundaries are obsolete. It's a place where, as the stakes are raised, the line between right and wrong becomes blurred and friends' loyalties are nothing more than fragments of the past.
This Is How It Starts is an incisively written debut novel about how far one postcollegiate idealist will go to be an insider in a town that is unyielding in what it will take from a person in exchange for granting him a margin of knowledge and power.
A University of Pennsylvania graduate moves to Washington, D.C., to work as a congressional aide in Ginder's lightly cynical Bright Lights, Big City treatment of Washington. Taylor Mark seems more interested in Late Night Shots parties (a displaced WASP social phenomenon) than political parties as he learns the ropes on Capital Hill, so the political satire feels mild compared to the social commentary Ginder offers about the Beltway social scene. Taylor begins an affair with his congressman's unhappy wife (she's a "gorgeous disaster") and begins to doubt the character of his super-wealthy best friend, Chase Latham, son of a prominent Republican lobbyist who has a thing going with Taylor's cousin. But it seems Ginder has never met a clich he didn't want to enshrine: here, wives of wealthy husbands are catty, gay men write gossip columns, rich guys are laddish boors and their parents are absent, medicated or disapproving. Although light on plot and character development, the author does manage to expose the Hill rat lifestyle with some scalpel-sharp observations, showing that snobbery and envy are bipartisan values.