Culture > Books

Books: Jack Ryan for president

Books | Conservative politicians fare better in fiction than in fact

Issue: "Flawed to the Ameri-Corps," Oct. 19, 1996

Truth is stranger than fiction. Especially these days. In the world of fiction authentic conservative heroes can emerge on the national scene, get themselves elected, fight the forces of graft and corruption, forge a wide popular following, subdue a hostile media, balance public duties with private responsibilities, maintain moral and ethical integrity, and actually make a substantial impact for good in the life of the nation. Alas, in this campaign season the world of fiction may be the only place such high ideals may be realized.

In Tom Clancy's latest blockbuster, Executive Orders, those high ideals are realized in fine fashion. Jack Ryan, the hero made famous in such books and films as Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger, suddenly finds himself thrust into the highest office in the land following a stunning terrorist attack on Washington. Though he is forced into a maelstrom of international intrigue, domestic instability, and economic uncertainty, he comes through admirably.

As in all of his books, Mr. Clancy offers up an astonishingly detailed portrait of high-tech espionage and covert military operations-there are wows aplenty. But he also provides an insightful glimpse into the hard-ball world of American politics. Indeed, I'll warrant that you'll never look at the media machinations of the White House in the same way again. Though this tome tips the scales at 632 pages, I raced through it in just a day and a half-

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I simply couldn't put it down. When I finally did, I could only long for a real Jack Ryan.

Admittedly, a Clancy novel is not exactly high-brow stuff. But if you think that a political action thriller with true literary merit is an oxymoron, then you've probably not yet encountered the works of John Calvin Bachelor. The author of such highly acclaimed non-fiction works as Ain't You Glad You Joined the Republicans?, he is actually best known for his engaging speculative and historical fiction.

His latest novel, Father's Day, would do any Clancy fan proud while simultaneously raising your culture-quotient by leaps and bounds. Here you'll find plenty of action, intrigue, and skullduggery as a true-blue conservative protagonist attempts to save the beleaguered American government from itself-waging an uphill struggle against a corrupt president and an even more corrupt vice-president vying against one another for the reins of control. But in addition to all the thrills and chills you might expect, you'll also find passages of stunningly beautiful prose, rich philosophical insight, and deep emotional satisfaction. Never pretentious, Mr. Bachelor's books are the stuff of which classics are made-and this one tops my list as his best effort yet.

Perhaps what makes both of these novels-and their respective heroes-so startlingly attractive is their stark contrast with our current crop of leaders. Perhaps it is the sad fact that they so boldly underscore the notion that fiction is sometimes better than truth.

John W. Alexander
John W. Alexander

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