The 45th, by D.W. Buffa

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, D.W. Buffa, and Polis Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

At a time when presidential politics suffers an indelible stain comes a book by D.W. Buffa that will shake the core of American political leadership. In the midst of a divisive campaign for the Republicans to choose their next presidential candidate comes a dramatic turn of events that few could have predicted. Majority Leader of the Senate, Louis Matson, leads the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention with the power to serve as kingmaker. When Matson is chosen to chair the convention and offer its keynote address, both candidates—Trump and Cruz, no less—seek to pander to him, in hopes that he will offer them the needed delegates to win. Matson is unsure what he ought to do, but knows that it is time to make a big splash with his speech. Knowing his limits, Matson turns to a long-time friend and current political recluse, Julian Drake. A visit to Drake’s California home leads to long-winded and deep political discussions with Matson, helping to shape what will be the speech of a lifetime. When Matson returns with the speech Drake penned for him, he refuses to let anyone see it ahead of its delivery, knowing that it has the ability to blow the field wide open. On speech night, a set of events begin that sees the speech delivered and minds opened. The content of this speech not only puts everything Republicans have held in jeopardy, but also seeks to reexamine how politicians interact with the electorate and Americans on a larger scale. Drake leaves the convention a new man with a mission, leaving traditional politics behind him. With the role of 45th President of the United States on the line, it is anyone’s game, though the rules have changed dramatically. A thought-provoking novel for any who have an understanding of the US political system and its hypocritical nature, Buffa leaves the writer with much to process. Recommended for those who wish to read and think outside the box with a political thriller of sorts that is as diametrically opposed to the current Administration.

Political thrillers tend to focus on the machine and how it is manipulated in order to churn out the most conniving and ruthless winner. Buffa seeks to suspend this norm as he posits what might happen if someone had the knowledge and ability to buck the trend and offer some insightful thoughts on the US political system. Pushing views long held in philosophy and in ages past, Buffa challenges much of what the reader understands of the current political system and what it chooses to label as important. With much of the book’s focus on Julian Drake and his return from obscurity, the reader is able to learn a little of what drove the man to disappear in the middle of a congressional campaign and how he used a decade out of the limelight to develop thoughts and skills that many would say are from a bygone era. With a determination to speak the truth rather than spin, Drake comes across as somewhat idealistic, perhaps what Buffa prefers at a time when many are jaded. His desire to look to the past to shape a future for America is likely the most refreshing aspect of the novel, though it may be lost in the need for mudslinging. There are others who make their mark in the novel—thankfully, Trump and Cruz make only brief cameos—and help to push this alternative mentality forward throughout. Buffa uses his cast as vessels to show all that is wrong and could be changed with the system at a time when it seems the rule of law is but a phrase sewn on a throw pillow. The story was surely not what I expected, particular with the title and early mention of the GOP’s two Neanderthals from 2016, but shaped up into something that resonates with me as I look forward to 2020 and all that is to come. Refreshing and quite controversial at the same time, Buffa delivers something that will have readers talking well past the book’s publication.

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for keeping me thinking throughout and wanting to get my hands on more of your work. Well done, indeed!

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