U.S. Flag

Historical Fiction

Hollywood: A Novel of America in the 1920s. Gore Vidal. New York: Random House, 1990.

Between 1967 and 2000 Gore Vidal published seven historical novels that tell America's story from the Revolutionary War to the end of the 20th century. In these books, which are often referred to as the American Chronicles, historical figures such as Aaron Burr, Ulysses S. Grant, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Van Buren interact with Vidal's fictional characters. In Hollywood, he draws upon the worlds of politics and show business to assemble a cast that includes Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. Also making an appearance is Senator Thomas Pryor Gore of Oklahoma, the author's grandfather. During his youth, Vidal lived with his grandfather in Washington, D.C., spending hours reading the Congressional Record to the senator, who was blind.

The Redhunter: A Novel Based on the Life of Senator Joe McCarthy. William F. Buckley. Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.

Historical figures such as Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and Secretary of State Dean Acheson join Senator Joe McCarthy and a fictional cast of characters in this recreation of the early 1950s, when fear of communism dominated the national consciousness. Using the perspective of an idealistic speechwriter looking back at his tenure with McCarthy forty years later, William F. Buckley defies conventional wisdom by presenting the senator as a sympathetic figure. Yet, he tempers this portrait by depicting McCarthy as inadvertently undermining the anti-communist cause that he promoted.

Two Moons. Thomas Mallon. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Roscoe Conkling, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 1867 to 1881, controlled a vast patronage machine and was contemptuous of efforts at civil service reform. He seems unlikely to appear in a romantic novel but does just that in this story of Cynthia May, a Civil War widow who lands a job at the U.S. Naval Observatory, and Hugh Allison, an astronomer. Set in 1877, the year the moons of Mars were discovered, the novel includes other real-life figures as Blanche Kelso Bruce, the first African American to serve a full term in the Senate. Thomas Mallon has also written about the Senate in some of his other historical novels; his most recent work, Fellow Travelers, focuses on the McCarthy era.

Washington, D.C.. Gore Vidal. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1967.

John Kenneth Galbraith notes that in Gore Vidal's Washington, D.C., "there are no tedious meetings, no long reports or memoranda; and while the story centers on Capitol Hill, it is largely unmarred by committee hearings, hassles over legislation, or even speeches." The story traces the fortunes of James Burden Day, a powerful senator who is eyeing the presidency; Clay Overbury, a pragmatic young congressional aide with political aspirations of his own; and Blaise Sanford, a ruthless newspaper tycoon who understands the importance of money and image in modern politics. With characteristic wit and insight, this book is considered Vidal's ultimate comment on how the American political system degrades those who participate in it.

The Capitol Hill in Fiction bibliography lists other novels about the Senate, House, and Capitol Hill.