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Roman à Clef

Advise and Consent. Allen Drury. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959.

Perhaps the most well-known novel written about the Senate, this Pulitzer Prize winner reflects the insights that Allen Drury gained while covering the chamber as a reporter for United Press International. Centered around the confirmation battle over a controversial nominee for secretary of state, the book inspired nationwide speculation over which real-life senators may have served as models for Drury's characters. This guessing game began again when a movie version--using real senators, staff, and reporters as extras--premiered in 1962. Drury later wrote five sequels to Advise and Consent as well as several other novels focused on the Senate.

Capitol Hell. Jayne Jones and Alicia Long. Edina, MN: Beaver's Pond Press, 2012.

Capitol Hell centers on Allison, a recent college graduate itching to work on the Hill. She lands a job as a scheduler to the newly elected Senator Anders McDermott III of South Dakota and spends the bulk of the book navigating Washington and the Hill, juggling outlandish demands from her boss and condescension from coworkers. A friendly legislative aide, Janet, helps her avoid major pitfalls--though Janet has more than a few scrapes of her own.

Democracy: An American Novel. Henry Adams. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1993.

Democracy was published anonymously on April Fools Day, 1880, and it was not until thirty-five years later that the author was confirmed to be Henry Adams, great-grandson of President John Adams and grandson of President John Quincy Adams. Adams was dismayed by the rise of a new class of politicians and what he saw as a culture of corruption in government. Fortunately for readers, he channeled his disenchantment into this tale of Mrs. Lightfoot Lee, a young socialite widow who decides to winter in Washington to see how her government works. She soon encounters the "dreadfully senatorial" Silas P. Ratcliffe, a powerful, corrupt, and compelling figure modeled on James G. Blaine, a real-life senator, speaker of the House, and presidential candidate detested by Adams.

The Gilded Age: A Tale of To-day. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. Hartford, CT: American Publishing Co., 1873.

Mark Twain's first novel, and the only one he wrote with a collaborator, details a time of corruption when crooked land speculators and bankers and dishonest politicians took advantage of the nation's post–Civil War optimism. Partly inspired by the time Twain spent as personal secretary to Nevada Senator William Stewart, much of the novel focuses on the efforts of Senator Abner Dilworthy, who was modeled on real-life Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas, to win approval of an unsavory bill that would benefit him and his friends.

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