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“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
In Jim Lynch's propulsive novel Truth Like the Sun, the crimes are in the past, but the mystery surrounding them seeps through to the present, where glory-day memories conceal grubby secrets. "There was a time," the main character recalls, "when all of us together in a room could constitute a revolution?. Hell, in the day, six of us could meet for a drink and change the course of history." This is Roger Morgan, now seventy, who became a Seattle legend by masterminding the city's World's Fair in 1962, a giddy year when Seattle's priapic optimism found perfect expression in the construction of the fanciful Space Needle.
Almost forty years later, addressing a group of geriatric admirers, Morgan announces that he is running for mayor. Suddenly a routine assignment for reporter Helen Gulanos — to write an anniversary feature on the fair — turns into a news story. Morgan is running and Gulanos, an instinctive muckraker, begins to sift through the details of his legendary past. "She's the perfect age," Morgan's longtime aide tells him. "Old enough to know how to make you look like hell, young enough to think she's justified."
In chapters that alternate between 1962 and 2001, Lynch ratchets up the tension as Helen digs for dirt and we enter the riptide of 1960s boomtown Seattle. "Nimbly bouncing from person to person," he writes of the young Morgan, "he recalls his father working crowds like this, rolling up his sleeves and pointing at you, his thumb cocked, as if toasting or shooting you, engaging everyone without committing to anyone." Morgan's absent father is exactly this: part memory, part myth. And even as young Morgan surfs waves of adulation — showing off his city to President Johnson, Count Basie, Elvis Presley — he is constantly scanning the horizon for the missing man. Who turns out, of course, to be a cheaper version of the imagined idol. "Skinny and shrunken, shabby and balding, round-faced and groveling.... He snapped his fingers and cracked the same grin Roger had seen in the mirror too many times."
Helen Gulanos, too, has Morgan's father in her sights, along with other criminals and grifters of the era. There is the developer who in 1962 seemed to have an uncanny sense of where a new highway would be built; the cops who are paid off by bar, club, and brothel owners; the politicians who become conveniently myopic once a shady deal is underway. When Morgan, at the height of his power, is told that a state senator is launching a corruption investigation, he "suddenly thinks that he knows more than he should, which is that the U.S. attorney and a few honest cops are in a race to see who can expose this city first."
The poetic intensity of Lynch's descriptions ("a cruise ship peeled away from the waterfront like an entire city block calving into the bay") perfectly balances the restless, relentless pace of a novel that never loosens its grip. And Lynch expertly choreographs his parallel stories, allowing Morgan's fragile resurrection and Helen's grim crusade finally to converge with grace if not grandeur.
Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.
Reviewer: Anna Mundow
Excerpted from 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?”
“Seriously, all BS aside.”
“Seeing how at least one of us needs to keep our mind on what matters?”
“Well, what I’ve been thinking—”
“—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.”
“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 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.”
“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?”
He sighs. “By the time we’re ready it’ll be over. You really gonna stay up here till morning?”
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.”
Posted August 22, 2012
It took me awhile to get to this novel, but it sure was a reward for me.
I don't often get giddy about a book, but this one sure deserves its 5
stars. I know that it might not set well with some Seattle residents who
don't want to think their city might not be perfect. But, no city is.
Seattle doesn't have the flash of New York or Chicago, but has a
well-deserved reputation as a clean and pleasant place to live. I think
Lynch's novel conveys that well, and it creates an interesting story on
the Seattle World's Fair, the growing pains of a city, the corruption
which is endemic to police who are not watched over, and the need for a
strong and vigilant press. It was fun to live back in 1962 for awhile-
surely a much simpler time, notwithstanding the Cuban missile crisis!
(That was a tongue in cheek remark. No time is really all that simple.)
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Posted July 4, 2012
Posted July 1, 2012
For those of us who lived in the Seattle area during the time of the '62 World's Fair, this would be a fascinating book. I'm not too sure how many would find it of interest who didn't live in the Pacific Northwest or have connections there or visited often. I also wonder how much of it is thinly disguised fact about Seattle politics and personalities. I was young during the World's Fair and not too informed about the political scene in Seattle but for history buffs and Seattle fans, this is a great book. I guess it would appeal to anyone who wanted to read about the evolution of a great American city.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.