As I’ve written previously on the blog, I’ve a taste for second-hand political fiction or thrillers from the 1960s and 1970s. I recently read “Dark Horse” by Fletcher Knebel, who was a well-known novelist of the time (He wrote the bestseller “Seven Days in May”, which became an excellent movie starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas).
The novel is set weeks before a US presidential election, where the Republican nominee dies suddenly. Party bigwigs meet to anoint a new candidate, and select a minor transportation official from New Jersey, Eddie Quinn, as a placeholder candidate. Quinn then proceeds to cause a political sensation by talking honestly.
It’s an enjoyable tale, but what really is interesting is the way Knebel, who was also a political correspondent, paints a picture of a Republican party which although to the right of centre, was light years from the party it has become today.
On top of that, the book goes into detail on the political issues of the day and Quinn’s left-of-field solutions to them, including a fascinating suggestion to require prisoner officers to secretly spend time every year in another prison as a prisoner, on the basis that they’d treat prisoners better if they knew that some of them could be POs themselves.
It is, of course, dated, but that’s part of its appeal. This is politics before the marketing consultants took over, and all the more fun for it.