Monday, May 24, 2010

Conspiracy Theories, Part 2

Whew, I just finished The Room and the Chair, and it was breathtaking. Lorraine Adams has an impressive resume and her background in journalism is evident in her writing which is crisp, clear and to the point. No Jamesian paragraph-long lines here. While I love complex, winding sentences in the right place, this book is perfect for the other kind and the abrupt style probably adds to the feeling one has that you're on a runaway train and won't be able to stop it.

The novel opens with a harrowing description of a jet losing power for no known reason, taking us into the  pilot's head as she examines all the ramifications of ejecting over the Potomac, not far from the Watergate building. Mary Goodwin ends up in a tree like a broken doll, yet before anyone could have known the plane was even down, an ambulance and crew rescues her and takes her to Walter Reed for surgery. Unknown to any of the players, there's been a witness to the crash and to Mary's unlikely saviors.

I read in the paper last week that new car manufacturers are expressing concern over the fact that black boxes like the ones in the Toyota Priuses, which have supposedly been acting up, can be easily hacked into by computer geeks bent on causing havoc. Hold that thought while reading this book.

Meanwhile, in the offices of a large DC newspaper, not unlike the Washington Post where Adams worked for many years, news of the crash comes in, but for some suspicious reason none of the usual "unidentified sources" know anything about it. How do you hide an F-16 one might ask? And Vera, the newbie on the night desk, decides to go after it.
Not yet jaded like many of her cohorts, she still has a passion, I believe Adams calls it, fervor, for the thrill of investigative journalism. Her research has her surreptitiously  meeting with underage prostitutes who have the goods on many an "upstanding" DC bigwig, frightening some of her higher ups at the paper but earning the respect of the supervisor who matters and the satisfaction of uncovering the truth whether or not it ever gets printed.

This book will make you question everything you read in any paper no matter its reputation. I remember a professor in library school who asked us to look askance at every article we ever read. Look for the subtext, he said. Who's behind the research and do they have an ax to grind? No one cared for this guy but he's the only one I really remember well. Maybe he was a conspiracy theorist.

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