WASHINGTON – CNN’s Jake Tapper is many things these days. According to Vogue he’s an “emerging journalistic hero.” Watch “Saturday Night Live” and the veteran newsman becomes Kellyanne Conway’s greatest foil. Head to a bookstore next summer and you’ll find Tapper in the fiction aisle.
“I started thinking about the book and developing the plot years ago,” Tapper told us via email after news of his debut novel, “The Hellfire Club,” broke earlier this week. “After several false starts,” according to Tapper, he started writing the book last year, around the same time his day job got busier with one of the most unprecedented presidential elections in U.S. history.
That’s right. Tapper, who anchors CNN’s “The Lead” and serves as the cable network’s chief Washington correspondent, has written a fictional tale covering shady politics, backroom deals and crime set smack dab in the “swamp” he covers on a daily basis. But if the topic sounds familiar, the timeline might not: “The Hellfire Club” is set in 1954.
“The process could not be more different than my work as an anchor and journalist at CNN,” Tapper explained.
“The Trump administration and the environment in Washington for months now has provided a fire hose of news,” he said. “Writing and crafting this novel … is a much more delicate and careful process, and thankfully I have more control over developments in the book.”
So replace the current cast of Washington politicians – President Donald Trump, Stephen K. Bannon and Conway – with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., and then-Vice President Richard Nixon.
Well, that nixes at least one of D.C. insiders’ favorite literary pastimes: thumbing through books looking for thinly veiled references to friends and frenemies. Tapper explained that “it’s not as though anyone will see people they know disguised as various characters.” But this town’s particular quirks – money, power, respect – remain the same.
Whether the current (and seemingly never-ending) spotlight on the District of Columbia’s marbled halls of power will make “The Hellfire Club” a must-read next summer is still anyone’s guess. Although Tapper admitted the interest in Washington these days is new.
“People are engaged in politics in a way I’ve never seen before,” he said. “Though, to be fair to Washington, it was far more swampy in the 1950s.”
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