The business partner of a power broker in Chicago recounts political shenanigans that led to a presidency in this debut novel.
Marston “Mars” Gregory, partner of Saidah “Sam” Alsheriti, describes himself as “the last man standing” in his story, since “Everyone else is either dead, in prison, or untouchable.” He provides excerpts of his own memoir, which include an account of events that “ended the careers of two governors and elected a president of the United States.” It all began with a 1994 traffic accident that killed six children. It was eventually revealed that drivers’ licenses were being given to unqualified truck drivers who bought tickets to a fundraiser for politician Ed Parker. The scandal was initially hushed up, though, and Parker became Illinois’ governor. Gregory then left his corporate law gig to become partners with Chicago real estate developer Alsheriti, a Syrian immigrant. Alsheriti was eager to become a political power broker, but Vince Perino, “the mastermind of the Republican Combine,” turned down his offer of campaign contributions. This snub led Alsheriti to help take down Parker and install a new Democratic governor. He also assisted Malik Alawi, a beaming, young African-American state senator, by securing a bargain price for land near his home. By novel’s end, Alsheriti and both governors are behind bars, and Gregory is amazed that Alawi now sits in the White House, as his partner predicted. Author Beller, a Chicago-based investment-firm executive, takes readers through an entertaining composite tour of the highly publicized corrupt politics of his city. Along the way, he brings an array of recognizable honchos to life, such as the controversial, real-life Obama supporter Tony Rezko. Beller spends a bit too much time on descriptions of Mars’ extramarital activities, however, and too little time fleshing out his Obama-like character. Indeed, Alawi makes only a few enigmatic walk-ons, and Sam’s bombshell that “Malik owes me big” for fixing a problem with a birth certificate is dropped very late in the game.
An engaging, thinly veiled fictionalization of Chicago politics.