Richard North Patterson, author of 14 previous bestselling
novels, has hit the political campaign trail with his latest
effort, THE RACE.
Lead character Corey Grace is a handsome and charismatic Republican
senator from Ohio vying for his party's presidential nomination.
Additionally, he is a Gulf War hero and a divorced man who is known
for speaking his mind and voting his conscience rather than the
party line. His principal opponents for the nomination are Rob
Marotta, the party establishment favorite, and Bob Christy, a
leader of the Christian right. To add to the mix, Grace has begun
dating an African-American Hollywood actress, Lexie Hart. He also
represents several anti-Republican ideals --- he is pro-choice,
pro-stem cell research, pro-civil unions and environmentally
conscious. These views make Grace an easy target, which his
political opponents hope to exploit in an effort to run him out of
With the inundation of political figures and celebrities in today's
media, I found it impossible to read this novel without finding
real-life characterizations for many of Patterson's fictional
characters --- war hero/POW/handsome young candidate (John McCain
meets John Edwards?), billionaire/entrepreneur/multi-media magnate
(Sir Richard Branson?), African-American/Oscar-winning liberal
actress (Halle Berry?), African-American/former
military/ex-Secretary of State (Colin Powell?) and scheming
political puppeteer (Karl Rove?).
While it was somewhat distracting to follow these characters
without making real-life comparisons, it also gave perspective to
the events that were to unfold. It is obvious that Richard North
Patterson was an SEC liaison as well as a former board member of
several Washington advocacy groups. The keen insights into modern
political campaigning that he provides keep this story moving at a
rapid pace while never losing interest or failing to emphasize the
many issues the novel is tackling.
Grace not only faces an uphill battle for his party's nomination
but he also is fighting to keep potentially career-ending secrets
from being exposed. These secrets surround both his guilt over the
death of a Gulf War comrade due to his maybe less-than-heroic
actions as well as the fact that his younger brother (who committed
suicide while at a military academy) was homosexual. Grace's
radical, non-Republican views, coupled with his interracial affair
with Lexie Hart, might be enough to cost him the nomination;
exposure of his "secrets" would ensure that.
The depiction of the three-man race for the party's nomination is
well-captured by Patterson, and there are many pitfalls facing
Grace as a result of his opponents. Rob Marotta and his campaign
manager, Magnus Price, go so far as to present Grace as a
"Manchurian Candidate" who may be in league with Al-Qaeda, while
Bob Christy pressures Grace on Christian ideals that oppose
same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Toss in the fact that Grace
fires his own campaign manager midway through the race and you
can't help but wonder how he can overcome all these obstacles to
secure his party's nomination.
The ending of this taut political thriller provides an unexpected
twist, and there were just enough political betrayals and posturing
throughout the tale to keep my interest to the very end. With the
2008 presidential race almost upon us, THE RACE proves to be a
timely and compelling read.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 27, 2011