The Corner

The Original House of Cards

No, not the BBC version, but rather Advise and Consent — the 1959 novel by Allen Drury (and a 1962 movie). The novel has been out of print for many years. Happily, it’s now available again in brand-new paperback as well as for the Kindle. If you binged-watched House of Cards on Netflix, maybe you should binge-read Advise and Consent.

Four years ago, National Review assembled a list of ten great conservative novels. Advise and Consent made the cut. Here’s what Roger Kaplan wrote about it in the magazine:

Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury (1959): “It may be a long time before a better [novel about Washington] comes along,” noted Saturday Review on the publication of Advise and Con­sent. The first work of fiction by veteran reporter Allen Drury won a Pulitzer, stayed on the bestseller lists for nearly two years, and became a well-regarded movie starring Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton. The book was loosely based on the case of Alger Hiss, and it sizzles with issues of loyalty and security. Half a century since its first publication, Advise and Consent still provides a penetrating look at Washington’s never-ending clash between ambition and integrity. The strength of the book is that even though it’s a political novel about a confirmation battle between the executive branch and powerful senators, it doesn’t wear politics on its sleeve. Instead, Drury shares the conservative’s preference for studying people, with their vices and virtues, before their stated ideologies. His novel exhibits a firm appreciation for the checks and balances at the heart of the American constitutional order as well as a sophisticated view of human na­ture. Even now, Advise and Consent remains a page-turning thriller that both describes and celebrates the obfus­cations, oratorical mannerisms, and etiquette that are designed quite de­liberately as speed bumps in the paths of the statist behemoth. That is just one reason it remains a book that every student of the U.S. Senate should read — as well as any student of American literature.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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