At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, California governor Robert Long got robbed.
It's a tight race between Long and Senator Salmon Stanley for the Democratic nomination for president. When Stanley triumphs, Long's delegates walk out, the media has a field day, and Long and his team -- including ace political strategist Jay Noble -- pack their bags and go home, knowing that whether Stanley fought fair or not, it's the end of the line.
Unless...Would Long consider running as an independent? Independent campaigns of the past, such as those of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, have been more gesture than genuine threat -- but how might the Internet and modern communications technology change that? And are the American people so disgusted at the partisanship and gridlock of the two-party system -- in particular, is the right wing so fed up with the Republican Party -- that they would vote for an independent? Would Long even be able to get on the ballot in all fifty states?
A lively cast of characters struggles with issues of their own:
Michael Kaplan, Senator Stanley's consigliere and alter ego, is a shrewd and ruthless campaigner -- but this time, has he gone too far? Can he avoid being indicted as scandal consumes the campaign?
Harrison Flaherty is the incumbent vice president and the Republican nominee for president. He is confident of victory, but there remain major obstacles to his inauguration -- some that he is aware of, some that he cannot foresee...and some that can kill.
Dr. A ndrew S tanton is a mega-church pastor and religious broadcaster whose millions of listeners (and their financial support) give him great influence in Washington. Vice President Flaherty wants and expects Stanton's support...but will Flaherty get it?
Rassem el Zafarshan is in the United States with a band of terrorists, unlimited financing, and only one goal: to create an act of terrorism so horrific that it will make Americans forget about September 11, 2001 -- and bring about war between the United States and Iran. And in this election year, he knows just how to do it.
Claire L ong, the wife of the governor, wants revenge against her husband's enemies, so she supports his presidential candidacy without question. But she has just one slight problem...
Jay Noble has met a beautiful young woman who loves him, and he gets a second shot at winning a presidential campaign, one more chance to go out on top. But as the campaign grinds on, he has to wonder: Did he pick the right horse? And is the woman just too good to be true?
Author Ralph Reed's many years of political involvement at the highest levels have prepared him to identify and portray in fiction some of the most glaring problems in our current political system -- and to tell that story with characters so true to life that they could well be subjects of a news story.
"Only Ralph Reed is capable of extending a political thriller to the realm of the spiritual and the devotional. Dark Horse is an exciting read that beats even the real thing of 2008 for suspense and drama." -- Robert D. Novak, syndicated columnist and television commentator
In today's volatile political climate, it seems a novel about politics might be eclipsed by the real-life drama playing out in Washington and on news talk shows every day. Yet with an obvious insider's grasp of political life and surprising skill for a first-time novelist, Ralph Reed, a veteran political consultant and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, manages in Dark Horse to present a scenario that is almost as interesting and compelling, if perhaps not quite as dramatic, as the real thing.
The book opens with California governor Robert Long, a moderate Democrat, facing liberal Senator Salmon Stanley for the Democratic presidential nomination. When the Democratic National Convention gets underway with no clear frontrunner, tension rises as campaign aides for both sides work behind the scenes to try to pull out a victory. When the dust settles, Stanley is declared the winner, but Long is not ready to fade into political obscurity just yet--especially since Stanley's victory is marred by allegations of fraud.
Long's campaign chief, Jay Noble, heads to Mexico after the convention to nurse his political wounds, never suspecting that while on vacation he will meet the woman of his dreams. And when Long decides to run for president as an Independent candidate, Noble's vacation is cut short. From there, backroom deals and public grandstanding abound as Long and Stanley battle it out with the incumbent Republican vice-president and with each other.
As the scandal surrounding the Democratic nomination continues to make headlines, the careers of some of Washington's most powerful influencers are at risk. Meanwhile, Andrew Stanton, widely known as "America's pastor," wonders which candidate to support, ensuring the vote of the religious right. Rassem el Zafarshan, a dangerous terrorist with ties to al Qaeda, is on the loose in the U.S., planning an attack that will make 9/11 pale in comparison. And when a leak develops in the Long campaign, all bets are off as election day approaches.
Dark Horse is a fun, fast read plagued with only a few of the usual first-time-author errors. There is some head-hopping (in-scene character point-of-view shifts), and there are lengthy sections that seem to contain too much information and not enough imagery or drama. Probably the biggest flaw in the writing is the sheer number of characters--far too many to keep track of--which is not helped by the similarity of some of the names of characters the reader actually needs to remember. In addition, some characters--particularly females--are more stereotypical and one-dimensional than modern readers have come to expect in this genre. The plot pacing is good, however, despite several loose ends that remain untied by the end of the story. And the prose is for the most part tight and concise; Reed does not resort to the kind of over-the-top description and flowery "extra-literary" language that makes some first novels read like vocabulary primers.
An element in the book that is either interesting or annoying, depending on one's point of view, is the obvious similarity between characters and real-life players on the American political scene. People like Colin Powell, Matt Drudge, James Dobson, George Soros, and others make appearances under thin disguises. This technique works best in a parody setting, like Roland Merullo's American Savior, but the realistic interactions between characters and Reed's firsthand understanding of how politics works help keep any corniness to a reasonable low.
If the book has a morale, it might be, "Follow your heart, and you can achieve your dreams." It's not exactly the most compelling message for a political thriller, but Reed inserts enough redemptive content in the form of one main character's spiritual epiphany to mostly make up for it. Objectionable content is minimal but not entirely absent, as certain characters behave in ways one might expect overpaid and overworked politicians and aides to act under extreme pressure.
All in all, Dark Horse is a better-than-average first novel, and in the relatively under-populated genre of Christian political fiction, it can more than hold its own. It's well worth reading for anyone interested in the sometimes brilliant but often greasy and underhanded way politics is done in Washington. For anyone looking for a break from the everyday drama and intrigue of our real government, Dark Horse is a recommended escape.Read more ›
Dark Horse is a fast paced story that could have been easily lifted from newspapers or right off of the network news programs. Although it was a little challenging at the very beginning, probably due to the reader being dropped into the middle of a political process with a large cast of characters, Once you sort out the players the payoff is worthwhile. Ralph Reed has been involved in bare knuckled politics for many years. It is obvious from the tags for this book, that he continues to be a lightening rod of vitriol from his political adversaries. I suppose success brings both adoration and vilification.
Notwithstanding all of that, Dark Horse is a fun read, in the way that Bill Buckley's Blackford Oakes series are fun to read. One gets the sense that as this story unfolds the reader is treated to a behind the scenes look at the intrigue of a national campaign. Who better to let us in on that than one who has been in the center of many political storms over the years. Though Reed portrays politicians and religious leaders reasonably realistically, every one appears to be brawlers when the gloves come off in the heat of the battle. it is easy to imagine that much of the story was drawn from Reed's experience as a consultant in the political process and a former candidate for office himself. That little touch of realism makes the story that much more interesting.
If you are looking for a fun read with a little constitutional education and political drama, Dark Horse fits the bill. For the aspiring young politico, Dark Horse captures the heat and emotion and does so in a manner that one would not mind their kids picking up the book and reading it. Hopefully Ralph will give us another book in the no so distant future that extends the story line of some of the interesting characters we have met in this book.
Reed's interview on The Daily Show made this book sound more interesting than I found it. I appreciate the detail that went into the plot; and i appreciate the character development even better. But I was painfully bored with the story. And since i paid for the thing, i made myself hang in there until the end. There is a fun "thriller" scene buried in the middle of it somewhere that got my attention. Otherwise, for the non-political-junkies out there, don't do it. for the political junkies, it's probabaly a lot of fun.
Like a number of people, I'll at times visit with family, friends and colleagues about politics. The Conversation seems to intensify around the time of the general elections and all the more so with the recent drama of the Obama/McCain race. Palin/Biden were the extra spice in that particular recipe, if you will.
When a friend suggested I might enjoy Dark Horse, I thanked him and took the book home, expecting a fairly quick, entertaining and enlightening read. To be honest, I was very disappointed.
The novel purports to be a political thriller enhanced by a Christian perspective and perhaps bespeaks the manner in which many fundamentalists would like to see their candidates achieve high office. But unfortunately, it didn't work for me.
I was very disappointed in the characters. I did not find the protagonists credible or believable. In fact, I found it difficult to like them at all. The fact that Robert Long could alter his stripes so completely to accommodate his change in political circumstance seemed dishonest and frankly left me shaking my head in dismay. His staff seemed just as conniving and manipulative as the staff members of the opposition candidates of the two major parties.
I especially disliked the portrayal of the several evangelical megachurch ministers and pastors. They seemed to reflect a distasteful stereotype of certain present-day televangelists in $5000 suits asking for yet more money - for the good of their ministry and to foster one's personal blessings, I'm sure. I've heard and known personally a number of fine and excellent Christian ministers, pastors and priests and none were represented here.
The only character who seemed human and honest was Jessica Cruz, a high dollar call girl.
Ralph Reed is a political operative and has been an influential and substantive force in national politics for years. At one time he was head of the so-called Christian Coalition. I understand this work to be that of a gifted amateur and that's not my quarrel. Regarding the fundamentals, he writes rather well. But I'd have loved to have seen Christian characterizations more in line with the heart of the Gospel and focused on a life of service to others by what honorable means and station such dedication would take.
The book rather seemed to me a representation of the most distasteful of post-modern pragmatism and had me reaching for my passport and pointing the truck toward Canada.
Two Stars is all I can scratch up and even that's a bit of a stretch.
Ralph Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He was senior advisor to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in both 2000 and 2004 and chairman of the Southeast Region for Bush-Cheney '04. As chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, he led the GOP to its biggest victory in history. Reed is chairman and CEO of Century Strategies, LLC, a public relations and public affairs firm. As executive director of the Christian Coalition, he built one of the most effective public policy organizations in recent history. He is the best-selling author of six books. Reed and his wife, Jo Anne, live in Atlanta, Georgia. They have four children.