Reed's First Novel Has Possibilities, But Is Sluggish

Reviewer Alan Cheuse says Ralph Reed's debut novel, Dark Horse, benefits from Reed's insider information on how the presidential nominating process works. He says though the plot has some possibilities, the book by the former head of the Christian Coalition is sluggish.

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When controversial political figures publish novels, the literary world gets curious. The latest writer in this category: Ralph Reed. He's the former head of the Christian Coalition, and he worked for George W. Bush's presidential campaigns.

Reed has just published his first work of fiction called "Dark Horse." And, no surprise, it's an account of a fictional presidential race.

Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE: Remember how many of us couldn't wait to get our hands on a copy of that novel "Primary Colors," that souvenir roman a clef of the first Bill Clinton presidential campaign? In the case of Ralph Reed's debut in campaign fiction, I admit that I wasn't that fired up to read it. I admit I came to scoff. This guy can bloviate, but here he is taking a shot at trying to cash in on the presidential election campaign.

But how much did he know about writing even passable fiction? Well, I have to admit that his novel certainly benefits from his insider's knowledge of how nominations get made, about the odd coalitions and strange allegiances that form in politics. Also, the plot he cooks up has some possibilities - the two main parties, because of corruption and a widely implausible terrorist subplot, battle to exhaustion, while the religious right bets on an independent candidate who's had a religious conversion on the road.

Reed tries to jazz things up for his readers. He's got dedicated political operatives, a sitting vice president, a secretary of defense who wants to run for office, a powerful Christian pastor with a popular radio show who's fed up with the mainstream Republicans and female political spies and those terrorists up from Central Casting.

But while there are some sexual encounters, the former Christian Coalitionist never commits to explicit sex. On the part of the "Dark Horse" candidate, however, there's plenty of explicit religion. Alas, none of this can make up for the general sluggishness of the chapters.

All I can say, Mr. Reed, is that I've read "Primary Colors," I enjoyed the characters of "Primary Colors," I enjoyed the plot of "Primary Colors," and your novel, Mr. Reed, is no "Primary Colors."

NORRIS: Ralph Reed's debut novel is called "Dark Horse." Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University.

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