“Fellow Travelers”–there was a time…

Mallon, Thomas. “Fellow Travelers: A Novel”, Pantheon, 2007.

There Was a Time…

Amos Lassen

Thomas Mallon is the author of seven novels and several non-fiction books. He delves in the political and in “Fellow Travelers” he writes about the McCarthy era and de does so with emotion. This is an absorbing look at a period n history that we as gay men would like to forget. The McCarthy years were a twisted time in American history as witch hunts were conducted and betrayals and opposite ideologies met head on and no one was safe. Senator McCarthy desired to make America free from the threat of Communism and anyone who was “deviant” in any way was suspect. There was a lot of drinking and blabbing and the age was dominated by such people as Richard Nixon, Perle Mesta, Drew Pearson, Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy. The bastion of world democracy was a hothouse of gossip and rumor in which people were watched very carefully.

Onto this scene comes a young graduate of Fordham, a good Catholic boy by the name of Tim Laughlin. As soon as he arrived he caught the attention of a young bureaucrat, Hawkins Fuller. Hawkins comes to Tim’s aid and after helping him in his work then helps him into his bed. During this period virtually no one was “out”; the closet was home. Mary Johnson, a beautiful young woman, and a friend to both men, alarmingly watches as the two men continue in their love for each other. At the same time Joe McCarthy was waging his war against Communism and sexual  “perversion”. Tim and Hawkins realize the danger that their love faces and find it increasingly hard to live double lives. Tim is doubly torn because of his Catholic upbringing and has a great deal of trouble reconciling his love for Hawkins, his religious ideals, and his own political convictions.

As McCarthy moves up the ladder in his attempt to controls the politics of the nation’s capital, he lashes out against sexual “subversives’. Tim’s personal problems bring about betrayal. Mary Johnson also gets involved with a married man which also brings about terrible problems.

As the novel moves from the Senate building to the Washington press corps, to the world of diplomacy as far away as far away as NATO, Mallon tells a story not easily forgotten.  He tells that story with heartache and heartbreak, with humor and political themes. This is a daring book and an exciting read. It makes us wonder how, in America, something like this could actually have happened and makes you look at the corridors of power in a completely different way.


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