Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Book: Stranglehold, by Ed Gorman (2010)

Washington State now conducts its elections via mail, so my ballot is long gone. The highpoint of this year’s process was seeing that a Republican candidate for the state house preferred to be identified as a member of the Problemfixer party. Once again I wrote in the name of sex columnist Dan Savage instead of voting for Seattle’s apparently permanent Congressman. There was one issue that spoke to me personally, an initiative to privatize liquor sales and force the state out of the retail business. Big money lined up on both sides; hell, Costco wrote the prospective law. I supported it in the hope that some enterprising bartenders will open a store along the lines of San Francisco’s Cask. And if they don’t, I will.

All of the above had me in the ideal mood for Stranglehold, the latest book by Ed Gorman. It marks the return of Chicago political consultant Dev Conrad, an irascible operator whose dirtiest secret is that he still believes in the system. Dev heads downstate in response to a distress call from one of his aides; an incumbent Congresswomen locked in a tough re-election bid is losing her focus. The candidate’s stepmother, a one-time actress who craves respectability and controls the family purse strings, doesn’t appreciate Dev’s involvement. Dev’s digging unearths a web of blackmail and murder dating back decades.

There’s insider information galore here. Ed tells the tale with that deceptively simple style of his, his casual observations sneaking up on you. Dev’s disappointed idealist voice brings out the best in Ed. Consider:

In most motel rooms there are spirits of lust and loneliness in the corners. If you listen carefully late at night you can hear them. They speak to you. They’d told me many things over the years about others as well as myself.

As always in a Gorman book, there is compassion for every character and they retain the power to surprise. Each of them is, “like most of us, a person of parts.” Stranglehold is the perfect antidote to the current season, an entertaining book that will stay with you.

Here’s my Q&A with Ed about Stranglehold.