A torpid, episodic novel set in Washington, D.C., by first-timer Lind (The Next American Nation, 1995), a neocon top player and former editor at The New Republic. The story, which lacks any very satisfying focus or sense of place, tracks the lives of a half dozen or so remarkably unappealing characters trying to make their way in America's capital city. The upwardly mobile lineup includes Ross Drummond, a homosexual lobbyist with sufficient political finesse routinely to earn a six-figure income, and his sometime lover, Avery Breckenridge, a well-off black who works as a booker for National Public Radio. Drummond's protâ€šgâ€še, Stephanie Schonfeld, a Heartland-er without much direction and currently employed as a junior writer at Perspective (a TNR-like publication owned by an Aussie media magnate), becomes romantically involved with Bruce Brandt, a budding careerist whose first berth out of grad school is as a lower-echelon aide to the federal bureaucracy's publicity-minded drug czarina. The District's have-nots are represented by, among others, Graciela Herrera, a desperately poor Salvadoran in the country illegally with her two children, and Evander Johnson, an apprentice drug dealer whose uncle, Curtis Hawkins (an ex-cop working as a security guard), fears that he'll come to a swift, violent end. Evander is indeed shot to death on the ghetto's mean streets, but not before impregnating a teenage girlfriend. The hapless Graciela perishes in a fire, and Curtis is suspended from his job for administering a well-deserved beating to a drunken Avery. Dumped by Bruce, who takes up with her best friend, Stef gets a consolation prize, the editorship of Perspective, after securing the last interview given by a Clark Clifford clone before he commits suicide. By Lind's not very gracefully rendered account, Washington is a town lacking pity, depth--or interest.