There's a satirical undercurrent in this controversial portrait of the period when the New Deal was at the cocktail party stage in Washington -- and before the focus was transferred from national to international affairs. Recognizable under thin disguises are many of the leading figures of the period, with Wallace (Walker in the book) practically a photograph. Millard Carroll, putting aside a chance to make a fortune in the oil region of Texas, comes with his wife to Washington, and it is through their story primarily that the reader is caught into the chaos of contemporary politics, private jealousies, back slapping and back biting, cynical taking advantage of the gravy train -- and now and then the saving grace of sincere belief in the policies and opportunities for helping the underdog. The style is Dos Passos'- stream-lined a bit and less staccato then in Manhattan Transfer, but with the same sense of sharply etched vignettes, flashes of recognizable talk, captured mood, the tompo of the times. It might be considered as doing for the New Deal period in Washington what Manhattan Transfer did for the period following World War I and USA for the feverish twenties. But the pattern is tauter, the pace faster.