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“The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago.” So begins Ward Just’s An Unfinished Season, the winter in question a postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon, a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption. Even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of “the enemy within.”
In rural Quarterday, on the margins of Chicago’s North Shore, nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan watches as his father’s life unravels. Teddy Ravan—gruff, unapproachable, secure in his knowledge of the world—is confronting a strike and even death threats from union members who work at his printing business. Wilson, in the summer before college, finds himself straddling three worlds when he takes a job at a newspaper: the newsroom where working-class reporters find class struggle at the heart of every…[more]
This is a novel about the will to power of one American family, the Behls of Washington, D.C. Their world turns on secrets—family secrets, state secrets, secrets divulged, secrets misunderstood, secrets denied. At the center of the story stands Echo House, the family mansion, exerting its own field of force. Three generations of men in the Behl family Adolph—his son Axel, and his grandson Alec—as well as the women they marry and sleep with, pursue power and influence from before the New Deal through the Cold War and far past the Gulf War. They live off-the-record lives and love off-the-record women. And the women tell their story. Echo House is populated not only by actual and fictional presidents and candidates but by White House staffers, by fortune-tellers and adventuresses, by powerful journalists male and female, by lawyers and bankers young and old, honest and dishonest, by researchers and diplomats. Nearly all the characters are Beltway insiders: rumor spreaders, power brokers, secret keepers, senators, investigators, spies, would-be ambassadors, and the canniest survivor of them all, a women who in the 1950s declared her intentions to become first lady and finally succeeded.