Today’s New York Post carries my short article on James Webb, the Democratic senator from Virginia, who has clashed with the White House recently on Afghanistan policy and terrorist trials.
I’ve followed Webb for a while. In 2006, on the pages of NR, I covered his campaign for the Senate. Before he was a politician, however, he was a novelist. More than ten years ago, I reviewed The Emperor’s General, Webb’s story about Gen. MacArthur in Japan after the the Second World War, for NR. As part of my research, I compared Webb’s depiction of certain events with how they actually unfolded. This involved at least one trip to the Library of Congress, which is basically across the street from NR‘s Washington bureau. Webb’s editing of history was minimal and, at least in one emotional scene, a kind of improvement. I don’t recall whether the guy who was NR‘s books editor at the time asked me to review The Emperor’s General or if I volunteered for the duty. But this would have been during the early days of The First Assassin, when I was still plotting and planning my story. I was keenly interested in studying how good historical novelists worked their fictional tales around known facts. I’m sure Webb influenced me at some level, though I can’t really say how.
Tom Wolfe once called Webb “one of the four or five most important young writers in this country.” You’ll find this line in both today’s Post article as well as one of the NR pieces. A small part of me is glad Webb won in 2006. If authors are at their best when they write what they know, then Webb may have the makings of a great political novel in him. We’ll just have to vote him out of office in 2012, so that he has the time to write it.