Sleeping Dogs Hardcover – Apr 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Shamus-winner Gorman (Fools Rush In) puts his experience as a political speechwriter to good use in this entertaining first of what appears to be a new series. Dev Conrad, a cynical yet idealistic political consultant, signs on for the re-election bid of Sen. Warren Nichols of Illinois after Nichols's longtime consultant and ally, Phil Wylie, leaves in a bitter dispute with the candidate and later commits suicide. Nichols, facing right-wing conservative Jim Lake, finds himself in a tightening race with a major debate looming. The race becomes nasty with dirty tricks, blackmail and even campaign sabotage likely emanating from inside Nichols's staff. While Gorman presents our electoral choices and processes in an often dispiriting and unflattering light, readers will hope his appealing hero will return in future outings beyond the current real-life political campaign season. (Apr.)
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About the Author
Ed Gorman has worked in politics as both a speechwriter and a TV producer. He has won the Shamus, Anthony, Ellery Queen, Spur, and International Fiction Awards. He has been nominated twice for an Edgar and once for the Silver Dagger. His other work includes the Sam McCain series and the Jack Sawyer series. A feature film based on his novel The Poker Club is forthcoming.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Ed not only gives us an inside look at the dark side of campaigning, he also offers a good puzzle, too, where the "bad guys" are fully fleshed-out characters who aren't that much different than the "good guys." And after countless books about tortured cops, PIs and forensic scientists...not to mention an endless number of amateur sleuths...Dev Conrad is a fresh, unconventional protagonist. The timing for this book couldn't be better...but, based on the cover treatment and lack of publicity support, I fear the publisher isn't in a position to take advantage of the opportunity.
Dev Conrad is an experienced political consultant leading the reelection campaign of Senator Warren Nichols--a liberal senator who, more often than not, is on the right side of the issues (as far as Dev Conrad is concerned), but also, to Conrad's annoyance, he has difficulty keeping his pants secured around his waist. When the man Dev replaced unexpectedly commits suicide and the senator is poisoned Dev finds himself in a troubling situation. He needs to figure the set-up without tipping the press, the police, or anyone else who might harm the senator's chance for reelection.
SLEEPING DOGS is one of the best mystery novels I've read this year, and there are two significant reasons why. The first is the protagonist. Dev Conrad is a well-developed character who is irreverent, tough, humorous with a dry and dark wit, and annoyingly (at least to himself, but never to the reader) sanctimonious. He knows the political mean streets and while he takes his job seriously he never takes the play-acting and posturing that is politics seriously. He is an average man who has hopes, dreams, problems, a broken family, and hell, even trouble getting a date.
The second is the background and setting. The atmosphere of the political campaign feels authentic. Ed Gorman is a former political speech-writer and if some of what he writes about in SLEEPING DOGS--campaign infighting, cynicism and the foibles of running a massive public relations front--aren't based on his experiences the reader will never know because it looks and feels real.
The mystery is also terrific. It builds on itself one logical and surprising step at a time and Mr. Gorman uses enough craftsmanship and adds more than enough twists to give the reader a few surprises. The supporting cast is well-defined and interesting, and the overall tone and style of the novel is nearly perfect as it changes from cynical to idealistic to angry to melancholy to funny and back again. SLEEPING DOGS gets my vote and it's more than worth the poll tax.
Ben Boulden, Gravetapping
Nichols hires Dev Conrad as a political consultant just before a critical debate between the candidates is scheduled. The race already dirty turns ugly and perhaps illegal as both sides use dirty tricks. However, Dev has issues with his team as he thinks they have gone too far. He believes Nicholas' staffers are using blackmail and campaign sabotage to destroy the opposition's support.
Ed Gorman makes a strong case that those who can make it work private; those who cannot make it work government, and those who cannot work run for office. The story line satirizes the American way of electing officials as being no better than a Hollywood B horror flick. Surprisingly although this is a dark lampooning of the electoral process and its candidates, Dev is combination optimistic cynic with a rationalization to believe the system works yet expects the worst out of those who become the poster faces of that system. Ironically Mr. Gorman is at his cynical optimistic best with this entertaining look at the American electoral process and the mugs who try to con us that we own it.
The only problem is the question of how accurate some of these observations, criticisms and comments are. For instance, amid plenty of criticism of former President Clinton is this statement: "The only time I'd felt any support for Clinton after the first term was when the other side had tried to impeach him..." The fact is Bill was impeached, just not convicted. It's that kind of lack of expertise that raises the question of authenticity in the rest of the story.
Conrad's problem is that the Senator, like Clinton, just couldn't keep his zipper closed and he is videotaped in bed with a bimbo. Conrad's job now becomes how to defuse this potential bombshell. The descriptions of over-all campaign strategy, interactions of the staffs, and ploys and counter-ploys of the opposing candidates and their campaigns are well done. And there is at least one murder and some mysteries to be solved along the way. For a reader looking for some light and amusing reading, this book is recommended.
Sleeping Dogs has a cast of characters that turns out to be multifaceted and complicated. No one is exactly what he/she first appears to be. In Sleeping Dogs, the actions are in proportion to the actors, each scene inexorably follows the one before it. I hope we run into Dev Conrad again, working for a politician he can like. One of the most interesting questions posed in the novel was this: what do you do if you like the voting record and the political stance of a candidate, but not the person him/herself? That's a question we need to think about. This was a terrific book.