A classic and hugely entertaining political novel, the cat-and-mouse story of urban intrigue in Seattle both in 1962, when Seattle hosted the World's Fair, and in 2001, after its transformation in the Microsoft gold rush.
Larger than life, Roger Morgan was the mastermind behind the fair that made the city famous and is still a backstage power forty years later, when at the age of seventy he runs for mayor in hopes of restoring all of Seattle's former glory. Helen Gulanos, a reporter every bit as eager to make her mark, sees her assignment to investigate the events of 1962 become front-page news with Morgan's candidacy, and resolves to find out who he really is and where his power comes from: in 1962, a brash and excitable young promoter, greeting everyone from Elvis Presley to Lyndon Johnson, smooth-talking himself out of difficult situations, dipping in and out of secret card games; now, a beloved public figure with, it turns out, still-plentiful secrets. Wonderfully interwoven into this tale of the city of dreams are backroom deals, idealism and pragmatism, the best and worst ambitions, and all the aspirations that shape our communities and our lives.
Lynch (Border Songs) offers a new entry into the prominent "city portrait" novels with his newest, which aims to do for Seattle what Jonathan Franzen's The Twenty-Seventh City did for St. Louis or Erik Larson's nonfiction The Devil in the White City for Chicago. The split narrative opens with the unveiling of the Space Needle in 1962 and the rise of its charismatic young architect, Roger Morgan, then ahead jumps to 2001, when the 70-year-old Morgan is running for mayor of the city he helped put on the map. Unfortunately, he's hounded by Helen Gulanos, an ambitious reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer who stumbles upon sordid aspects of Roger's past. As Lynch shuttles back and forth between early 60's idealism and contemporary political cynicism, a host of subplots are explored from the standpoint of Morgan's glory days hobnobbing with Elvis Presley and pursuing capitalist expansion by any means necessary, even if it means fraternization with Seattle's criminal underworld which are then contrasted with Helen's hunger for truth and the Morgan campaign's attempts to bury the scandal in the days leading up to the primary. Executed at a heady clip, the book gets some special traction from posing capitalism under the menacing shadow of Khrushchev against pre-9/11 apathy. But characters like Morgan and Gulanos are ultimately no more than values, their functions and destiny foregone, in service of awfully small stakes.