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  • Written by Jim Lynch
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  • Truth Like the Sun
  • Written by Jim Lynch
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Written by Jim LynchAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jim Lynch

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On Sale: April 10, 2012
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-307-95869-3
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A classic and hugely entertaining political novel, the cat-and-mouse story of urban intrigue in Seattle both in 1962, when Seattle hosted the World's Fair, and in 2001, after its transformation in the Microsoft gold rush.

Larger than life, Roger Morgan was the mastermind behind the fair that made the city famous and is still a backstage power forty years later, when at the age of seventy he runs for mayor in hopes of restoring all of Seattle's former glory. Helen Gulanos, a reporter every bit as eager to make her mark, sees her assignment to investigate the events of 1962 become front-page news with Morgan's candidacy, and resolves to find out who he really is and where his power comes from: in 1962, a brash and excitable young promoter, greeting everyone from Elvis Presley to Lyndon Johnson, smooth-talking himself out of difficult situations, dipping in and out of secret card games; now, a beloved public figure with, it turns out, still-plentiful secrets. Wonderfully interwoven into this tale of the city of dreams are backroom deals, idealism and pragmatism, the best and worst ambitions, and all the aspirations that shape our communities and our lives.

Excerpt

Excerpted from Chapter One

Chapter One


April 21, 1962



THIS IS WHEN and where it begins, with all the dreamers champagne-drunk and stumbling on the head of the Needle. Look back further all you want, but this renaissance starts right here when the dreamers get everyone to take one long gawk at this place. Look! Just, just look at this brash metropolis surrounded by postcard summits and all that boat-loving water. Up here in the dark, five hundred feet above it all, downtown looks like it’s on fire again, though it’s just showing off this time, flaunting cheap hydropower, everyone flipping on their lights to greet the world, all those bulbs straining to make the city look bigger than it actually is. Taste that salty air. Smell the clam spit. Where better to start afresh? A whole new way of living in a city of things to come. That’s right. A city so short on history it’s mostly all future anyway. So climb on board and go, go, go!

The elevator doors glide open seven minutes before midnight, everyone spilling out, men dressed like penguins, women like peacocks, an older crowd, bloodshot and slack-jawed, up past bedtime, bumping into radiant waitresses in gold lamé passing out flutes of champagne. Roger Morgan, the grand exalted dreamer himself, grabs a glass, thanks the waitress, takes in the chaos. Dozens of people— and it sounds like hundreds—are already here, seeing their city for the first time from this height, shouting, crowding the windows, exclaiming Good God! at the spectacle of lights and water below while others marvel at how the dining area spins around the elevators and kitchen just slowly enough to make you think you’re losing your marbles. A busty woman returns from the bathroom and can’t find her friends, who’ve rotated eighty feet clockwise, until she hears them roaring at her confusion. A drink spills, a glass breaks, a man retches and blames it on the spinning. More shouts. More stampeding laughter.

Roger parts a gaggle, turning more heads—so damn young, isn’t he?—into another flurry of handshakes and hugs from people who’ve already embraced him tonight, but they want more contact now that they’re loaded and up in his Space Needle. Everybody wants his blessings, whether it’s the etiquette committee urging local ladies to wear dresses during the fair or the beautification committee telling school kids to keep those candy wrappers in their pockets. The fair’s coming! Clean the streets and shine your shoes. The fair is coming!

Roger continues grabbing shoulders and, depending on the recipient, offering one of his nimble smiles—gracious, mischievous, reassuring. Boyishly jug-eared, he comes off as a careful listener who agrees with you even while explaining why he doesn’t. Pushing words through his head now, he tries them out against this dizzy backdrop. Plan a toast all you want, but when the mood shifts you’d better adjust. “Every endeavor, big and small,” he whispers to himself, “begins with an idea.”

Where the hell is Teddy?

More overdressed drunks stumble out of the elevator into a fresh round of exclamations and squabbles over the exact whereabouts of various landmarks. Dapper men surround him. The only one he recognizes is Malcolm Turner, to whom he recently gave most of his savings. “Looks like the world’s your oyster,” a bullet-headed man tells him through a menacing smile. A camera flashes with each shake of his hand. Is that a Times photographer? It’s past midnight. Toasts were supposed to start already, but Roger knows when to stall. A meeting runs on schedule or tempers flicker, while a roast, a tribute or any boozy gathering moves to a slower beat. You wait until they’re itching for someone to make sense of it all, then you wait a bit longer.

He hears Linda’s laugh, gauging her inebriation by its volume: plastered. He’d considered her gregarious before she’d wheedled him into proposing. Since then, she’s struck him as loud, especially when she drinks. He finds his mother, as far away from his fiancée as she can get, telling a story about her childhood that he knows isn’t true.

He wraps an arm around her as if to brace her, though she’s probably the sturdiest woman up here, her sober regality as out of sync with this teetering mob as her fake British accent.

Teddy Severson finally strides over, tall, hipless and lipless. “You ready?”

The sound system squeaks before Teddy’s throaty voice comes through louder than necessary. “Thanks for joining us.” Reporters set their champagne aside and flip open notebooks as everybody packs into this curve of the dining area. “Thanks for joining us,” he repeats over the lingering chatter, “on the eve of something that most people didn’t think was possible.” Laughter ripples, glasses clink, the city sparkles, a cigarette smolders toward his wedding band. “Along the way, I heard from enough doubters and doomsayers to make me forget that all we were trying to do was throw a nifty fair, not ruin this city.” Laughter mixes with gossipy murmurs. Everyone knows this crowd holds more than its share of doomsayers. “I too miss the quiet Seattle of yesteryear,” he continues woodenly, reading now, “but we can’t keep this place in curls and a Buster Brown suit much longer.” He blushes, waiting out the polite chuckles. “This city has done amazing things. It rose from ashes, flattened hills, dug canals, bridged lakes and shipped its products to every major port. And for the next six months, it will, my friends, become the capital of the world.” He pauses, as if expecting more than golf claps. “But let me shut up and get Roger up here to christen this place up right, because without his gift of gab we wouldn’t be here, and we certainly couldn’t have coaxed thirty-five countries into helping us throw a fair in some city they still think rhymes with beetle.”

“Jus’ a few words,” Roger says to amuse those familiar with his rambling, noteless speeches. Easy to see in this light that he’s younger than everybody: loose-limbed, bushy-haired, dimpled. “First time I experienced this view,” he begins, “was when Teddy, Mr. Vierling and I rented a helicopter and hovered up here to see what it might be like to actually have a restaurant in the sky.” Roger makes helicopter noises, then mimics the pilot. “‘Four hundred, four-fifty, five hundred feet. Holding.’ Teddy kept muttering Jesus, while Mr. Vierling calculated aloud what it would cost to build this thing. The numbers, of course, kept going up, but it was obvious to all of us that this not only could happen, but needed to happen. So, what do you think? Pretty marvelous, huh?” Opening his arms, as if to hug everyone, he notices the county prosecutor, the city attorney, the police chief, two doomsaying councilmen and the head of Boeing all studying him. While cameras flash, it occurs to him that he still doesn’t know the full price of the deals he’s struck and the friends he’s made.

“I’ve been warned that frankly we’re not sophisticated enough to pull this thing off, that we have a champagne appetite and a beer budget. Well”—he hoists his glass—“I disagree.”

His gratitude rattles on for five minutes without notes, thanking architects, contractors and engineers by name. “All ambitious endeavors,” he says slowly now, “begin with a suggestion, a kiss, a daydream—whether it’s to build a freeway, a relationship or a world’s fair.” He lowers his eyes and waits out the murmurs. “This unique building was put up in four hundred and seven days. It can take longer than that to remodel your kitchen, yet it’s already well on its way to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable icons.” He pauses, letting the words prick the bastards who want to tear it down after the fair. “We even put a forty-foot flame on top of it. That’s right. We built the tallest building west of the Mississippi, slapped a spinning restaurant on top and lit the whole damn thing on fire. Sound smart?” He grins and shrugs. “I confess to having some moments of profound doubt. ‘What if this is the stupidest thing anybody’s ever tried?’ Look at us! Look at this audacity!” He steps back, inhales, then continues. “It’s amazing how many bad ideas we’ve had to overcome. Somebody suggested we fill Mount Rainier’s crater with oil and keep it burning through the fair. Another genius recommended that we tell NASA to land a rocket in Elliott Bay. Others offered conspiracy theories. The Committee Hoping for Extraterrestrial Encounters to Save the Earth—aptly nicknamed CHEESE— claims the Needle was designed to, and I quote, ‘send transmissions to beings in other solar systems.’ ” He cuts into the rising mirth. “Can I get a moment of silence here?” As the room settles, he takes everything in—the strange gleaming faces and lopsided chandeliers, the counterclockwise drift of the lights below, the bright-lipped brunette seemingly modeling ringless fingers for him. He waits a few more beats. “We are simultaneously at the end of something challenging and magnificent and at the beginning of something challenging and magnificent. So let’s commit this moment to memory, okay? Look around. Remember what our city looked like on this night from up here. Remember how young we all were.” He leans back to milk the laughter. “Remember this moment,” he insists, “before the eyes of the world take a good long look at us.”




ANOTHER WHIRLWIND of good-night hugs and handshakes. Roger takes his time on each one, matching each grip and embrace with his oversize hands. He’s great with good-byes, having noticed long ago that most people aren’t.

Soon it’s down to just him and Teddy staring at the moonlit silhouette of the Olympic range with dishes clanking behind them in the kitchen. Teddy coughs, clears his throat and frisks himself until he finds a pack of Chesterfields. He taps one out, flips open a lighter, spins the wheel, watches the flame, hesitates, then shuts it and slides the cigarette back into its pack.

“Been thinking,” he ruminates, dragging a palm through his graying hair. “When you really look closely, you realize that just about every goddamn thing begins with a kiss.”

“Screw you.” Roger chuckles. “But you know what?”

“What’s that?”

“Seriously, all BS aside.”

“Yeah.”

“Seeing how at least one of us needs to keep our mind on what matters?”

“Right.”

“Well, what I’ve been thinking—”

“Uh-huh.”

“—is how we can’t keep this city in short pants any longer. Know what I mean?”

Teddy taps a cigarette back out and lights it. “Go to hell.”

Roger waits for whatever’s coming, knowing his friend often turns serious when he drinks. Starts out sarcastic, goes philosophical, grave, then personal.

“You know I still get people asking me about you.” Teddy mimics voices: “ ‘What’s his story? Where’d he come from? How’d you let a youngster run things?’”

“Don’t they read the papers?”

“What do they ever say other than the obvious? Rising star in the restaurant biz who drew the Needle on a napkin, blah, blah, blah.”

“So, what do you tell ’em?”

“That you came here on a spaceship from some planet where they’re a whole lot smarter than we are.”

“C’mon.”

“I tell ’em your age doesn’t matter, that you can’t be outworked, that you could sell snow to Eskimos and you don’t need any sleep. Sometimes I just tell ’em you’re the future, or the city’s good luck charm, or that Jackie V. swore by you. Basically, I encourage ’em all to go directly to hell. Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect two hundred dollars.”

Roger watches tiny red taillights crawling up Capitol Hill.

“Know something, though,” Teddy says on the inhale. “Been meaning to tell you this: enough is never enough with you. And it’s not healthy. It’s like an addiction.”

“To what?”

“To more.” Smoke flares out his nostrils. “You can’t get enough of anything.”

Roger rubs his cheeks and averts his eyes, wondering if it’s that obvious he’s increasingly driven half-mad by the limitations of having only one life. All the things he’ll never see or do or understand. All the people he’ll never know. “Whatever you say,” he finally says.

“Think about it.”

Roger squints in mock contemplation.

“Hell with ya.” Teddy straightens the jacket over his bony shoulders. “But tell me, how do you win over people so quickly?”

Roger smiles slowly. “By finding out what they want.”

“Ahhh. Like a good waiter.”

“Not really.”

“Because you don’t always give it to ’em.”

“Right, but at least I know what it is.”

Teddy snickers. “Gonna grab a few hours of shut-eye, so I can function in the morning.” He snubs the half-smoked Chesterfield on the heel of his dress shoe, sets it on the table, smoldering end up. “You should too, but you won’t because how else will people possibly find the fair if you’re not sitting up here guiding them in?”

“Teddy?”

“Yeah?”

“We ready?”

He sighs. “By the time we’re ready it’ll be over. You really gonna stay up here till morning?”

“Maybe.”

Teddy shakes his head and wobbles off in a pigeon-toed shuffle. “Remember,” he shouts without looking back, “there won’t be anybody to work the elevator till eight or so.”

“Thanks for what you said tonight,” Roger says, “even if I don’t deserve it.”

Teddy waves it off. “I lie about all sorts of things, but not about you.”
Jim Lynch

About Jim Lynch

Jim Lynch - Truth Like the Sun

Photo © Grace Lynch

Jim Lynch has received the H. L. Mencken Award and a Livingston Award for Young Journalists, among other national honors. His most recent novel, Border Songs, won the Washington State Book Award and is currently being adapted for television.
Praise

Praise

“A flat-out great read with the spirit of a propulsive, character-driven 1970s movie…. Mr. Lynch pairs unlikely antagonists: an old-school political fixer blessed with immense charm, and an overeager newspaperwoman whose research, done in 2001, has the power to destroy him. They never behave predictably, and their showdown lingers long after Mr. Lynch’s story is over.” —Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012, The New York Times

“A terrific two-track novel that alternates between—and unites—the story of Seattle in 1962, just as the Space Needle is reaching the sky, and the city’s post-dot-com gloom in 2001. The book is beautifully plotted, textured, and paced.” —Thomas Mallon, The Washingtonian

“A rich and engaging tale, with complex characters and a plot seamlessly interwoven with the history of Seattle [and] also the topics of ambition, corruption, the Cold War, and big-time newspaper journalism on the wane.   The protagonists are a flawed and likeable pair that grudgingly admire each other, and the truth turns out to be elusive, often obscured by the clouds of memory and the need to sell newspapers.  Anyone interested in the city, political intrigue stories, or just plan good writing should enjoy this book.” —Nancy Fontaine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“This serious but charming rather old-fashioned sort of book about complicated folks in the midst of life's struggles is just big enough to embrace a number of important themes and topics - the making of the fair, the rise and fall of big city journalism, local politics, the details of history - and just small enough to make all of this quite intimate and engaging.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

“A tremendously entertaining yet serious political novel… As with any fine work of art, it’s hard to divine just why this novel works so well.  And, as with such art, there’s a lot more going on than appears on the surface.  I dislike terms like ‘instant classic’ but this comes awfully close.” —Richard Sherbaniuk, The Edmonton Journal

“Propulsive… The poetic intensity of Lynch’s descriptions perfectly balances the restless, relentless pace of a novel that never loosens its grip.”  —Anna Lundow, The Christian Science Monitor

"A beautifully crafted, fictional remembrance of the Seattle World's Fair and a cleverly plotted tale of the very public death of one man's political ambitions....Lynch is a sparkling host, rendering history in glorious technicolor and the recent past in absolute and black-and-white moral tones." —Nick March, The National [U.K.]

“Alternating between the two periods, Jim Lynch’s novel is a brilliantly disturbing dissection of political morality, where right and wrong are, like Seattle itself, blurred in a grey mist.” —John Harding, Daily Mail [U.K.]

“A swirling portrait of a place, like many a Western city, that’s equal parts hucksterism, genuine civilizational hope, profiteering racket and progressive mecca, Truth Like the Sun deserves attention and will reward reflection.” —M. Allen Cunningham, The Oregonian

“This brisk, bustling and good-humored work [is] taut and accomplished. . . clever and propulsive.” —Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News

“A story of civic pride, political intrigue and journalistic tenacity. . . Any reader interested in the relationship between any town and its most enthusiastic participants will respond to this engaging story.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“A consummate stylist….The obvious cultural touch point for Lynch’s novel is Citizen Kane, [and] readers are confronted with the American obsession with ambition is all its tarnished glory.” – Christian House, The Independent [U.K.]

"Addictive....Told in chapters that alternate between two eras, its prose reflects the two moods:  1962 sparkles like an old-time midway, crammed with celebrity cameos, souvenir Champagne glasses and fast-talking men in hats; 2001 feels reflective and a little world-weary, a city once bitten and now twice shy." —Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

"Enveloping and propulsive....Lynch's twosome, a 30-ish newspaper reporter and the much older bon vivant who is known unofficially as "Mr. Seattle" are such fine creations that they can't be reduced thumbnail descriptions....There is much marveling to be done as Truth Like the Sun unfolds.  Lynch captures the excitement of a fair that proudly showed off the world of tomorrow but inadvertently revealed more than it should have." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“A briskly paced novel that gives us an insider’s view into both the politics of culture and the culture of politics.” —Kirkus

“Often funny and sometimes devastating but always to the point, Truth Like the Sun reflects back on the 1962 World’s Fair that put Seattle on the map. With the keen eye of the journalist he was and the nimbleness of the novelist he has become, Jim Lynch provides a thought-provoking fictional portrait of a city on the make and its somewhat tarnished tribe of civic strivers.” —Ivan Doig

“This book is one of a kind, and a great story.  At a time when Seattle is celebrating the  anniversary of the World’s Fair, Lynch’s novel is a bracing reminder of the larger context:  an uncertain city hoping to make a mark in mid-century, and then figuring out where it is in a more globalized world forty years later.  It’s smart – and unique – to link these with one wonderfully rendered character, still trying to have a hand in how his city will go.” – Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

Truth Like the Sun, read after Jim Lynch's celebrated Highest Tide, confirms the tidal wave of his talent. Set again in the Pacific Northwest he has explored in such depth and variety, this is a city story all the way. Ambition, payoff, anxiety, payback, decadence and revenge dominate Seattle's story during the World's Fair of 1962 and thirty-nine years later, during the crest of the dot.com boom and not many weeks before the World Trade Center—the Other Coast's Space Needle—endured the mother of all collapses. Lynch's power of concentration depends on his respect for quiddities. His detailing of the moment-to-moment stratagems of a reporter stalking a political big-foot, and of the big-foot's bravura evasions—the hunt proceeding throughout the storied and exotic environment of any right-minded person's favorite city—is thrilling.” —Geoffrey Wolff

“Jim Lynch writes of the city where I  live with great brio and persuasiveness. The joinery between the two halves of the narrative [1962 and 2001] is seamless. His handling of the light, just-between-friends style of routine civic graft in the 1960s seems dead-on, and his only-slightly alternative history of the city is at least as plausible as the official version. His people live and breathe on the page. I was engrossed throughout.” —Jonathan Raban


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