A paranoid political fantasy elevated to the level of absorbing melodrama by the irresistible narrative talents of old pro Gifford (The First Sacrifice, 1994, etc.). When US President Charles Bonner vows in a state-of-the-union address to make an open book of the domestic intelligence community's budgets, he doesn't realize the consequences for the country or himself. Already preoccupied with a bloody revolution in earthquake-ravaged Mexico, the Chief Executive soon faces a stiff fight for renomination as the Democratic party's presidential candidate in the upcoming election. His challenger is Bob Hazlitt (Perot-like founder of the Heartland Group, an Iowa-based pillar of the military/industrial complex whose stock-in-trade is spy satellites). With only a few weeks to go before the convention, an elder statesman who helped orchestrate Bonner's victory over incumbent Sherman Taylor, a retired USMC general and Medal of Honor winner, dies under suspicious circumstances. His demise puts Ben Driskill on the case. A Wall Street attorney who serves as First Chum (by dint of shared experiences on the Notre Dame football team), the deniable Driskill follows a twisty trail that convinces him Hazlitt and Taylor (now an avowed supporter of the prairie populist) are co-conspirators in a sinister stop-at-nothing plot to seize control of the US government. While Driskill is able to bluff the defense contractor into withdrawing from the campaign, the turncoat marine (who wants another White House tour), his attack- dog subalterns, and a fifth columnist take their fight to the convention floor. As a result, more blood must be spilled before President Bonner can get back on track for a second term and, with heartfelt thanks for helping to keep America safe for democracy, let Driskill resume his Manhattan law practice. An enthralling tale of a convulsive power struggle that's notable for liberal doses of violent action and a minimum of ideological prattle.