the morning after the 2016 presidential election, author
Thomas Mallon rolled out of bed and made immediate plans
“before I’d had my coffee” to find the Board of
Elections online. There he made a decision and took an
action he never thought he’d take. He voided his
registration in the Republican Party.
results of the election trumped, if you will, any desire
to remain a Republican in favor of being an independent,
which he remains.
vote for Hillary Clinton? No. A 67-year-old who hails
from Long Island, Mallon is openly, proudly gay, and in
his heart of hearts, he will always be Republican.
“The Republican Party is now Donald Trump’s
party,” Mallon says. “Which means that not only am I
not a loyal Republican, I am not a Republican, period,
anymore. I find Trump just absolutely intolerable.”
anything, this lifelong Republican is a celebrated
author, a writer of novels and nonfiction, whose byline
has appeared in such lofty publications as The New
Yorker and The Atlantic. His new book, “Landfall,”
is labeled historical fiction, about the presidency of a
Republican he voted for twice, Dallas resident George W.
typical of Mallon’s books, which include one of the
best ever written about the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy, “Mrs. Paine’s Garage,”
“Landfall” is getting favorable reviews, from such
politically disparate sources as The New York Times and
The Wall Street Journal.
Mallon voted for Bush “with enthusiasm” over Al Gore
in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, he disagreed with the
Republican incumbent during the latter election over the
hot-button issue of gay marriage, which Bush opposed by
spearheading a constitutional amendment that would have
legally defined marriage as the union of one man and one
time, Mallon notes, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama were themselves less than enthusiastic on the
issue of gay marriage, which the Supreme Court rendered
lawful in 2015.
most of the country, it’s reached such a speedy
acceptance,” Mallon says, “that I think we tend to
forget that a position against gay marriage was hardly
hate speech or anything like that. But I did disagree
with the president” — meaning Bush.
remembers attending a White House Christmas party during
the Bush presidency with his longtime partner, designer
William Bodenschatz. The two were received warmly,
underscoring Mallon’s feeling about the current state
of politics in a deeply divided country.
think we are suffering from 100-percentness in our
politics,” he says, citing the fact that a Republican
he greatly admired, Ronald Reagan, took a position on
AIDS during its earliest and most potent period that the
author deemed “catastrophic.”
also appears as a Mallon character, in “Finale,” his
second novel in a GOP-themed trilogy that began with
Richard Nixon’s Watergate and concludes with
“Landfall.” Watergate was a finalist for the
PEN/Faulkner Award, and during the Bush years that
inspired his new novel, Mallon served as deputy chairman
of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
he’s drawn to presidents who cast a shadow of mystery,
such as Nixon, Reagan and the younger Bush, whom
Landfall tattoos as “a maestro of catastrophe.” He
once considered writing a book on Bill Clinton but nixed
it, finding him “complicated” but “not
it as “a superbly written novel,” The Wall Street
Journal describes “Landfall” as “a tragic love
story” that begins with a bloody insurgency in Iraq
and proceeds through the domestic horror of Hurricane
Katrina, a low point for Bush.
has written 10 books of fiction and six works of
nonfiction. In both genres, he has demonstrated a
masterful knack of taking a character on the periphery
— homemaker Ruth Paine, for instance — and telling a
huge story such as the Kennedy assassination with her as
the central character.
example was his compelling historical novel, “Henry
and Clara,” in which he tells the story of the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln and its shocking
aftermath by profiling the couple that shared the
presidential box at Ford’s Theatre on the night that
John Wilkes Booth killed the president. Henry Rathbone,
a decorated Union officer, ended up going mad, with his
wife becoming the tragic footnote to Rathbone’s
otherwise glorious legacy — he fatally shot and
stabbed his beloved Clara.
it’s not surprising that such characters as Brett
Kavanaugh populate the pages of “Landfall,” even
though Mallon had finished the book before Kavanaugh
ended up being nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court and
assailed during a tempestuous Senate hearing amid
allegations of sexual assault.
begins with the so-called Bush Bash at a home in
Lubbock, Texas, where Mallon once served as a professor
of English at Texas Tech University. He has also taught
a historical novelist, and in some ways,” he says with
a laugh, “we’re the original fake news. But
fictionalization of facts and reality, I think that’s
better left to novelists. I don’t want the
participants of history — the makers of history — to
be fictionalizing things.”
come as a surprise to no one, especially his fellow
Republicans, who he’s talking about there. It’s the
same guy who gave him that terrible morning-after
feeling in 2016. So, will he ever write about President
Donald Trump? As he told The Wall Street Journal,
“Never, never, never, never.”