Jason Pinter, best known as the publisher of Polis Books, has taken on a monumental task of fictionalizing the shit show that was Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in his self-published thriller The Castle. In a world where polar bears run around on a tropical island and shoving the prime minister of Montenegro out-of-the-way to get in front for a photograph are equally unsurprising, Pinter’s literary task in The Castle is like trying to eat The Big Texan’s 72oz steak in one hour . . . twice.
It was with some trepidation that I picked up The Castle because I feared it would fail and flay in the magnificent morass that was Trump’s campaign — it does not. Pinter moves this political thriller along with enough twists and fakes to sometimes make us forget about the circus in DC.
The Castle opens with Remy Stanton, a typical young New York professional lost in a sea of suits, lying shot on the ground, bleeding out.
Had Remy Stanton known his life would change that night, that the next time he woke up there would be a bullet hole in his chest and the world at his fingertips, he would have chosen a better beer than Miller Lite to drink before it all went down.
A fine, aged scotch. Or perhaps a craft beer, the kind brewed by men in thick flannel shirts and rumpled overalls, suds dripping from their frizzled beards as they stood approvingly over massive stainless steel vats.
But nope. Brand new bullet hole, the world within his grasp. And he chose Miller Lite, a.k.a. the Styrofoam of beers.
The bullet in Stanton is due to his stopping a mugging of a couple and the woman of the couple is the daughter of the real estate billionaire Rawson Griggs. A few days later, Griggs, ever the publicity hound, offers Stanton a job with his fledgling yet secret presidential campaign. Stanton is the reader’s hook into the private world of this multi-national real estate developer. As The Castle moves through the presidential campaign, the reader
cringes witnesses the inside machinations of Griggs’ campaign whether they are in the New York skyscraper called The Castle overlooking Central Park or flying around the country performing their schtick in front of their adoring fans.
I could not help but wonder throughout The Castle if this book had come out too soon, are we too close to the events fictionally portrayed in the book because we know how it will end, with Steve Bannon and a train wreck in the Oval Office. But there is a sharpness in the writing as Pinter reimagines the characters at play with enough of a difference to keep the reader intrigued, first and foremost Griggs is far smarter than our current president seems. Pinter is a funny writer without being overtly jokey or “too clever”. His prose moves us along quickly and nothing seems unlikely nor is Stanton any sort of typical thriller superman. If you can stomach a bit of Trump™ Castor Oil, Pinter’s spin on the machinations of 2015 and 2016 is a fun read and it makes the Trump clown car a bit easier to take.
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