As Thomas Mallon, one of the city’s few resident literary novelists, once put it: Washington novels, such as they are, tend to be found on racks at National Airport, the raised gold letters of their titles promising a bomb on Air Force One or a terrorist kidnapping of the First Lady. There’s a reason for all the goofiness. A serious novelist must take his characters seriously, regard them as three-dimensional creatures with inner lives and authentic moral crises; and that’s just what, out of a certain democratic pride, Americans refuse to do with their politicians.
Fiction somehow declines the responsibility of creating a realistic Washington in favor of various genre approaches.
No, the fact is that Washington is and always has been irretrievably bogged down in process. And process doesn’t generally make for electrifying pros