Master politician Roger Morgan moves from crafting the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair to running for mayor of the city 40 years later, but along the way a nosey newspaper reporter investigates his checkered past.
Lynch moves the narrative along by alternating chapters focused on the young Morgan’s brash ambition in putting obscure Seattle on the world map in 1962 and his decision to oust the sitting mayor in 2001. Hired by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to produce a feature focused on the 40th anniversary of the Fair—and of its iconic structure, the Space Needle—reporter Helen Gulanos starts to dig into Morgan’s past. At first everything seems to check out. He was a young Turk determined to make a difference in Seattle’s place in cultural history, and while in the ’60s he was never in an elected office, he still emerged as a consummate politician, never forgetting names, dates or special occasions. (In one particularly telling scene he goes to talk to beggars on the Seattle streets to find out why they’d decided to move from Spokane—and he offers money to the one with the best story to tell.) But as Helen doggedly pursues the story, sordid details begin to emerge—the rumor that cops had been on the take, for example, and had used their graft money to invest in apartment buildings for which they’d received inside information from Morgan. And Helen starts to probe even darker secrets—that before a trial on this scandal a star witness had been murdered. It also turns out that Helen is no rose herself, for she’s twice been accused of libel at her previous newspaper.
A briskly paced novel that gives us an insider’s view into both the politics of culture and the culture of politics.