Thomas Mallon

novelist and critic


Selected Works

Finale is the book that Thomas Mallon's work has been building toward for years. It is the most entertaining and panoramic novel about American politics since Advise and Consent, more than a half century ago.
"Mallon himself is deliciously witty. But it is his political fluency and unstinting empathy that transform the Watergate debacle into a universal tragicomedy of ludicrous errors and malignant crimes, epic hubris and sorrow." --Booklist (starred review)
"Some of the most lucid prose in contemporary American literature . . . [Mallon's] best book yet."
--Los Angeles Times
"Retro in style, modern in sensibility, compact, imaginative, and wildly entertaining."
--San Francisco Chronicle
“An astute, exhilarating tour of the mailbag . . . a charming, discursive delight. ‘Yours Ever’ is nuanced, informed, full-blooded, a vigorous literary salute."
--New York Times Book Review

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Thomas Mallon’s nine books of fiction include Henry and Clara, Fellow Travelers, Watergate (a Finalist for the PEN/​Faulkner Award) and the just-published Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years. He has also written volumes of nonfiction about plagiarism (Stolen Words), diaries (A Book of One’s Own), letters (Yours Ever) and the Kennedy assassination (Mrs. Paine’s Garage), as well as two books of essays (Rockets and Rodeos and In Fact). His work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Book Review and other publications. He received his Ph. D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University and taught for a number of years at Vassar College. His honors include Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships, the National Book Critics Circle citation for reviewing, and the Vursell prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, for distinguished prose style. He has been literary editor of Gentlemen’s Quarterly and deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is currently Professor of English at The George Washington University in Washington, D. C.

Praise for Finale, published by Pantheon Books:


“Sly and penetrating . . . Mallon is a poised storyteller who traffics in history’s ironic creases. His novels don’t upend conventional wisdom so much as remind us that history is a rickety architecture of human endeavor—that today’s statues commemorate yesterday’s frail and fumbling mortals . . . ‘Finale’ represents Mallon’s most audacious and important work yet . . . Mallon’s portrayal of the first lady is humane, thoroughly convincing and counts as one of the book’s triumphs. So is his presentation of Richard Nixon, with whom ‘Finale’ opens, rather unexpectedly . . . As in his previous novels, Mallon works deftly with an ensemble cast, employing both real-life and fictitious characters … [a] galloping narrative. ”
—The New York Times Book Review

“[A] scintillating comic epic of politics . . . sit back, chuckle and laugh aloud at a feast of catty lines that evoke zinger-rich films like ‘The Women’ and ‘All About Eve’ . . . Literate levity . . . Mallon follows his troupe across thousands of miles, capturing what happens with rapier wit . . . Mallon focuses on character, and to great effect. Drawn with insight and sometimes compassion, they are not caricatures.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Thomas Mallon has carved an impressive place for himself in the art of ‘historical fiction,’ a genre whose august forerunners include Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and Lampedusa’s ‘The Leopard’ . . . Mr. Mallon has cautioned, in the author’s note to his earlier novel ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ (1997): ‘Nouns trump adjectives, and in the phrase “historical fiction” it is important to remember which of the two words is which.’ He handles the distinction expertly, but part of the pleasure of reading him is deciding when the author is fudging historical fact. ‘Finale’ offers a certifiable slice of the recent past but teases its readers with subtle fictionalization . . . It is high-calorie stuff, and Mr. Mallon handles it with an easy mastery.”
—Wall Street Journal

“The kind of novel Washington loves . . . anchored in historical events and oozing withering assessments of real-life people, many of them still alive . . . This is a political novel, but it’s a story about the limits of human ambition . . . Wicked good, that Thomas Mallon.”
—Washington Post Book World

“In Finale, Mallon impressively blends his singular knowledge of political history with his limitless imagination to capture an era.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer

“”Gorbachev, Thatcher, the Gipper himself—the gang’s all here and ready to party like it’s 1986 in this propulsive and often very funny novel that portrays political upheaval through the eyes of some of recent history’s most formidable players.”
—O: The Oprah Magazine

“This interesting and well-written book focuses on 1986—a year that proved to be Reagan’s annus horribilis . . . At the front of the book, writer Mallon gives readers a cast-of-characters list. It teems with 99 characters—all but nine of them real-life people. And what a real-life variety!”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Like any historical novelist, Thomas Mallon can ride the fact train when he wants and jump off when he pleases, and perhaps only the most rigorous scholar of Reagan’s time will know exactly where the research ends and the inventing starts. But even readers who don’t remember the waning days of the Cold War will find masterful performances, by the author and by his subject, in Finale.”
—Dallas Morning News

“It may be a cliché, but Mallon is truly incapable of composing a bad sentence. In fact, one of the novel’s many joys is the beauty and elegance of its prose.”
—Miami Herald

"Thomas Mallon's "Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years," is full of witty, sometimes withering and often surprisingly sympathetic portraits of the characters clustered around the ever-unknowable president."
—Chicago Tribune

“What consumes the astute and well-informed Mr. Mallon is political give-and-take, both domestic and international. His theatrical novel brings to life historical figures who long ago became historical footnotes . . . a book that reads like a divertissement, but resonates far deeper . . . Mr. Mallon’s vivid take on this period in American politics rings true. He effectively gets inside his characters’ heads, too. The one head Mr. Mallon doesn’t get inside, except in a brilliant epilogue at the very end, is Mr. Reagan’s own—which is eerily appropriate, even faithful.”
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“What a pleasure it is to enter the rough-and-tumble politics of Thomas Mallon’s historical novels . . . The tone is elegiac, but the details are biting and often hilarious . . . Mallon’s murderers’ row of mostly historical figures make for terrific—if not wholly respectable—company. [Christopher Hitchens], of course, was legendarily quick-witted, but it’s Finale’s women who really bring the heat. Many feel like tributes to the gloriously acid-tongued stars of Reagan’s Hollywood heyday . . . Mallon captures that uncertain tenor of the times while portraying the complex drama of high-level politics with real clarity and energy.”
—The A. V. Club

“Mallon has become a master of . . . political theatre . . . What makes [his] novels so much fun is the author’s blend of historical exactitude with imagined reactions and machinations.”
—Christian Science Monitor

“The transitions are seamless; there’s a whirlwind of activity and abundant snappy dialogue. With his customary flair, Mallon has crafted a scrupulously researched novel that gives readers a front-row seat on world-changing events—a combination that proves irresistible . . . one of this country’s major historical novelists.”
—Booklist (starred)

“What Mallon does best is dramatize the bizarre ’80s intersection of Hollywood and Washington, D. C., as equal weight is given to Merv Griffin and Eva Gabor as to Pat Buchanan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, creating in the process a crazy, quilted depiction of a contradiction-filled presidential administration.”
—Publishers Weekly

“An intriguing, humorous, even catty backstage view of the Reagan presidency from an artisan of the historical novel.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Mallon, a longtime master at fictionally realizing history (Watergate), here takes on the ‘Reagan years,’ specifically 1986 . . . The book’s centerpiece is the Iceland disarmament summit with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and the tension is manifest . . . [a] well-developed snapshot of an important year.”
—Library Journal