Professors often have a hand in politics because of GW’s location in the District. But one is penning a fictitious tale based on the political past.
Thomas Mallon, a professor emeritus of English, published a book Tuesday that falls in line with the presidency of George W. Bush from 2005 to 2006 amid the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. “Landfall” – the last installment to his “Washington Trilogy” of modern historical fiction – intertwines the stories of real people, like Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, with a made-up couple.
In the novel, Ross Weatherall and Alison O’Connor are two west Texans on opposites sides of the political spectrum. As problems during the Bush administration intensify, Weatherall and O’Connor question their own political convictions.
“I find fiction to be a relief from the self,” Mallon said. “A lot of novelists put themselves into the novels in one way or another – but that’s not the case.”
While the book is historical fiction, Mallon’s insights into the Bush administration come from firsthand experience. Mallon served as the deputy chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities under Bush from 2005 to 2006. He also experienced Hurricane Katrina by traveling to New Orleans for emergency grant work to restore damaged museums and libraries.
“Certainly what one experienced as a spectator of those events at the time informs your viewpoint when you come to write about them fictionally,” Mallon said.
As a historical fiction author, Mallon’s often writes about U.S. politics. One of his first books, “Henry and Clara,” told the story of the Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, a couple present when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. But for the past 10 years, Mallon has focused on modern history and major political events in his own life.
“I’ve been writing about political events that I’ve experienced, that I’ve lived through,” Mallon said. “As a novelist, I just found that there are so many stories in history that strike me as being more vivid and exciting for a reader certainly than more than an autobiographical refraction of the novelist’s life.”
Before “Landfall,” Mallon authored “Watergate” and “Finale,” the other two volumes in his “Washington Trilogy.” The first retells the events of the Watergate scandal while the second illustrates the last years when former President Ronald Reagan was in office.
“I keep getting asked, ‘Are you going to write about Trump next?’” Mallon said. “And my answer is I only hope to survive this administration.”