The Plan, by Stephen J. Cannell

Eight stars

There was a time when I could not get enough Stephen J. Cannell’s writing. With numerous other series catching my eye, I never did get around to some of his standalone novels, including this one. One topic in my current reading challenge includes reading a book that has been on my To Be Read list for over 2 years. This one has been collecting digital dust since July 28th, 2011 (my Goodreads anniversary). At the time I finally began reading this novel, it had been rearranged numerous times on my shelf and made it to #46(!). Money makes the political world go round, even if it’s coming from the mob. With the pending US presidential election, Mickey Alo works to enact a plan his father crafted decades before to help those within the crime family; he’ll buy a candidate and place him in the Oval Office. With unlimited funds, Alo chooses someone he can shape with no public notoriety. Enter Rhode Island Governor Haze Richards, who wants nothing more than to make America work for its citizens. Not feeling he can make any difference, Richards will have to be massaged by his campaign manager, A.J. Teagarden, who will handle all the dealings with Alo. Turning to a childhood friend who has fallen on hard times, Alo has Teagarden contract Ryan Bolt to prepare a campaign video to help catapult the Richards campaign well past the established Democratic candidates. However, when Bolt learns on the sly that Alo and his mob money are behind putting Richards in the White House, Bolt flees and does all he can to ensure the secret gets out. Thus begins a cat and mouse game of Alo trying to neutralise the threat and Bolt seeking to remain one step ahead. With Richards steamrolling in the primaries, there does not seem to be anyone who can stop him, even if he is only reading from a script. Usually, the mob gets what it wants… and with Alo’s two significant projects, it seems the mantra will hold true. Cannell delivers in this wonderful standalone novel, mixing political and crime thrillers in a seamless narrative, which is recommended for those who love both genres. Written over two decades before this latest presidential election, Cannell shows that he has an uncanny ability at foreboding, though you’ll have to parse through this pre-Twitter narrative.

Stephen Cannell is a master at his art, having perfect his writing for television before making the leap to published novels. I thoroughly enjoyed his Shane Scully series and was certain to find something that would remind me why I stuck with that series until the author’s death. After reading this book, I cannot fathom why I waited so long to pick it up, though I suppose it served a wonderful purpose for this reading challenge. Cannell is able to construct a number of interesting storylines with a handful of strong characters. Ryan Bolt, washed-up television writer and childhood friend of Mickey Alo, plays a central role, though he is parachuted into the story in what might seem a tangential manner. The reader learns much about Bolt through flashbacks and the story’s development, allowing for a complex understanding of the man’s issues and his foibles, as well as what drives him to do his best. Haze Richards is the pawn of the entire story, whose early reluctance to ascend to power is soon lost when the intoxication of the ultimate prize becomes apparent. He is idealistic and seems almost wholesome, which differs greatly from the candidate parallel I found in modern presidential politics, but is soon ready to make demands and knock anyone out of his way. Mickey Alo has the money and the readiness to make things happen, worrying only about how best to execute his plan, which helps solidify the parallel between him and his modern-day tsarmaker… I mean kingmaker. A handful of other characters add depth to the story, which runs through numerous parallel plot lines, all of which are enriched by the banter and development found within the stellar narrative. The story is both entertaining and curiously telling at this stage, showing how money and power can serve to place anyone in a position of power and how the thrill of the race can turn anyone into believing what is put before them. Action is woven into the story, though it is offset with the continued momentum gain of a political campaign, which has little time to rest. The interested reader will have to see if, like at present, the political campaign within the book is caught with its proverbial hand in the cookie jar as it receives funds from a source seeking to sway the American political system.

Kudos, Mr. Cannell, for another fabulous book. The world lost a wonderful thriller writer when you passed on those years ago!

The novel meets the requirements of Topic #3, The Teetering Pile for the Equinox 4 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: