[[quoteright:320:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gorevidal_924.JPG]]
[[caption-width-right:320:Kissed more boys than [[TheSimpsons Lisa Simpson]] ever will.]]
->''"Write something, even if it's just a suicide note."''

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) was a novelist, essayist, and playwright whose career spanned sixty years, beginning in the years immediately following UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and continuing into the early phase of the [[TurnOfTheMillennium new millennium]]. In the world of literature, he was best known for his breakthrough work ''The City and the Pillar'', the first post-war novel to feature a [[{{UsefulNotes/Homosexual}} homosexual]] protagonist who isn't [[BuryYourGays bumped off]] at the end of the story. A quarter-century later, Vidal began penning a series of historical novels based on the formulative years of the United States, including a third-person account of [[UsefulNotes/AbrahamLincoln President Lincoln]] which met with high accolades.

Best known by a later generation as [[OldShame procreator]] of two dubious cinematic efforts, ''Myra Breckinridge'' and ''Caligula''. Vidal tried [[AlanSmithee disowning]] the latter, but his lawyers moved too slowly and thus his screen credit remains. Nevertheless, he did appear in a [[RealTrailerFakeMovie fake trailer]] for a ''Caligula'' remake, so at least he was a good sport about it. Later in life, he accepted the odd acting role onstage and in film, most notably as the title character's Senate race opponent in ''Film/BobRoberts'', the space shuttle impresario in ''{{Film/Gattaca}}'' and a priest in ''Igby Goes Down''.

Vidal was politically active throughout TheFifties and [[TheSixties Sixties]], appearing on television as a spokesman for the "New Left" and sharing a panel with his [[{{Archenemy}} ideological opposite]] William F. Buckley Jr. This arrangement didn't last long, as their exchanges became [[BloodOnTheDebateFloor increasingly heated]] until Buckley threatened to punch him in the face on-air. Vidal was also an outspoken critic of monotheism, believing it to be the most dysfunctional of all belief systems.

Gore died at his home in California on 31 July 2012 at the age of 86 from complications of pneumonia. His death has largely been considered a loss to the literary and actual world.

!!Tropes in the works of Gore Vidal:

* AmbitionIsEvil: A major subversion. Vidal believed that ambition was a natural and worthy quality and nobody, including heroes like UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington, UsefulNotes/AbrahamLincoln and Franklin Roosevelt made it far without wanting to get there. That said, his works aren't blind celebrations of achievement, either, and he has himself described and spoken of his own political and artistic ambitions without any qualifications.
* {{Deconstruction}}: Vidal was himself highly critical of the academic study of {{Postmodernism}} and deconstruction, but his own works are highly subversive and corrective of received ideas of Christianity, American politics, and American history.
* GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff:[[invoked]] ''The Left-handed Gun'', an InNameOnly rewrite of Vidal's television play about Billy the Kid. It did pretty well in France for its "bold experimentation" and {{deconstruction}} of the legendary gunfighter; but Vidal [[MedalOfDishonor can't take credit for any of that]], so he grouchily produced another movie, this time starring Val Kilmer.
* GrayAndGrayMorality: Never set truck by conventional values and ideas of "good" and "evil".
* {{Realpolitik}}: A stated theme in his books, especially his book on Lincoln was to show how politics actually worked and what kind of person you have to be to last in the arena, even if you are a "good" politician.
* SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids: His general tone as a writer, in his essays and novels, is to subvert and criticize America's self-perception of innocence and naivete and his insistence on grown up adult discourse.
* WordOfGay: Gore Vidal intended Messala in his screenplay of ''Film/BenHur'' to be Ben Hur's spurned [[HoYay lover]], thus explaining his hatred for him later on. Stephen Boyd (the actor who played Messala) was let in on the secret, but Charlton Heston was deliberately kept in the dark.
** In an interview with Larry Kramer, Vidal admitted that in ''Burr'', he intended the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and George Washington to suggest the latter's attraction to the former.

!!Partial Bibliography & Related Tropes

* ''Julian'' (1964) - [[Literature/{{Julian}} Has its own page]].

* ''The Best Man'' (1964)
** DarkHorseVictory: In the play (and subsequent film) ''The Best Man'', a bitterly contested fight for a party's Presidential nomination ends when [[spoiler:one of the candidates withdraws and throws his support behind a previously-ignored third man]].
** TheFettered: William Russell.
** KingmakerScenario: Inverted in the ending of ''The Best Man'', in which two presidential candidates, (Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson) are tied in their race for the nomination. [[spoiler:Fonda's idealist, unwilling to falsely smear Robertson's crooked politico as a homosexual in order to win -- yet also unwilling to let Robertson claim victory by twisting some facts related Fonda's medical history -- throws his support to the dark horse candidate who has been mired in third place throughout the balloting, who goes on to win]].
** NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Joe Cantwell.
** {{Realpolitik}}: The title of the play is ironic. Cantwell is implied to be the 'best man' because he's more devious, whereas Russell is a well-meaning schnook who can't hold onto power.
*** And, in the end, the nomination -- which is widely viewed as tantamount to the election itself -- goes to [[spoiler:some guy no one knows anything about at all]].
** NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: Vidal always denied this, but most viewers tend to identify Cantwell as UsefulNotes/RichardNixon, Russell as Adlai Stevenson, and Art Hockstader as UsefulNotes/HarryTruman. (According to Vidal, when he asked UsefulNotes/JohnFKennedy to read a draft of the script and offer technical advice, Kennedy was concerned that the womanizing Russell was based on ''him''.)
** SleazyPolitician: A conversed trope. Hockstader is of the opinion that only someone willing to be utterly ruthless is truly qualified to handle the responsibilities of the presidency, while Russell counters that such a person can't be trusted to do what's right if it might be unpopular.
** ToBeLawfulOrGood

* ''Myra Breckinridge'' (1968)
** GenderBender: [[spoiler:Myra's true identity is that of a male film critic who underwent a sex change]].
** DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnMale
** RefugeInAudacity
** UnusualEuphemism: ''Myron'', the follow-up book ''Myra Breckinridge''. In the original version of the book, Vidal replaces all the swear words with the names of Supreme Court Justices who had just voted in favour of some pro-censorship measure or other. So we have Burger = bugger, Father Hill = tit, Rehnquist = dick and so on (This was done to avert the book's censorship.)

* ''Kalki'' (1978)
** TheAntichrist: Inverted; [[spoiler:Giles, one of Kalki's chosen few, unwittingly dooms mankind]] when he tries to take control of the cult for himself. As the resident gynecologist, he intentionally paired Kalki with women who were genetically incompatible with him, which would cause a miscarriage. Giles, the lone remaining male in the group (and still virile, despite his earlier claims that he had a vasectomy), offers to impregnate Kalki's wife, effectively making him [[spoiler:the father of the new human race]]. Instead, Kalki murders him for his treachery, [[spoiler:leaving no heirs to rebuild civilization.]] Kalki later rationalizes this by explaining that [[spoiler:Giles]] was the avatar of Ravana and his prophesied enemy. Giles is also emblematic of everything that's wrong with the age of "Kali": hence, his fetishistic love of material things, like Cuban cigars and fine wines, long after [[spoiler:the human race has gone extinct]].
** ArmiesAreEvil: The Americans know the potentially world-ending consequences of developing the NeutronBomb, but they push forward anyway.
** BeautyEqualsGoodness: Also implied by Giles' overall ugliness. Save for Teddy herself and Kalki's followers, everybody else in the book is depicted as diseased (cancer, coughing, drug addiction), unkempt, and intrinsically banal.
** CargoCult: Somewhere in Katmandu, a religion has sprouted up around an American expatriate who now goes by the moniker "Kalki" and claims to be the next and final incarnation of Vishnu.
** CrapsackWorld: A running theme throughout the book is entropy and overpopulation: No appliance ever works properly, the phone lines are always shorting out, the air is noxious with pollution, and legions of junkies prowl the streets at night. This takes place during TheSeventies, when society seemed on the verge of cracking up.
** ChekhovsBoomerang: Paper lotuses are a recurring item during Teddy's travels. It turns out that Kalki's shell company is sinking his illicit proceeds into a Robin Hood-like scheme, awarding big sums of money to lucky winners via "lotus lotteries." Before long, the states are being flooded with paper lotuses, and Kalki's public profile skyrockets. [[spoiler:The newest batch of lotuses contains a viral contagion, killing off the entire human population]].
** ChekhovsSkill: Teddy's piloting.
** ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Giles Lowell is the pitchman for Kalki's movement, which is the only reason anyone tolerates him. Kalki later discovers, albeit too late, that Giles has always been plotting to usurp him and steal Lakshmi for himself.
** DarkMessiah: The press isn't sure if Kalki is a crackpot like Jim Jones, a hippie burn-out, or a charlatan. [[spoiler:It's implied by J.J. Kelly's]] story that his religious movement began as a hoax, but by the end he has [[BecomingTheMask become the mask]] and embraced his role as "[[AGodAmI destroyer of worlds]]." Teddy remains on the fence, not sure as to whether the world deserves to perish, and conflicted about her role as a "Perfect Master."
** DefectorFromDecadence: Following some journalistic digging, "Kalki" is found to be [[spoiler:James J. Kelly, an Army veteran and field medic]] who helped conduct biological warfare in Vietnam. Shortly before his self-exile, he learned that a new type of a superweapon was being developed by the American and Soviet governments which would sharply increase the threat of even accidental self-annihilation. Kelly devises a scheme to [[spoiler:kill off the humans while preserving the other species on earth.]]
** DespiteThePlan: Kalki and his "Perfect Masters" intend to birth a new race above the ashes of an old one. Kalki is the only viable sperm donor in their small group, as Giles has undergone a vasectomy. [[spoiler:...Except he hasn't. Kalki cannot successfully impregnate any of the women on his own.]]
** DoNotCallMePaul: Kalki and his wife have separated themselves from their old Anglo names.
** TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt: Kalki announces to the world that the human race will be extinguished on April 3. No one, including the narrator, takes his threats very seriously, and a closer inspection reveals a shell company which makes its money through selling drugs. Kalki becomes a worldwide sensation as millions tune in to his interviews to either ridicule or worship him, but his true angle remains unclear . [[spoiler: ...Because there is none. Kalki uses his publicity tour to distribute a virus throughout the world, ending all human life save for his followers]].
** FascinatingEyebrow: Deployed by WalterCronkite at the end of his Kalki segment. It's mentioned that had Cronkite not reassuringly raised his eyebrow, there would have been panic in the streets.
** FourIsDeath: In addition to himself and his wife, Kalki hand-picks three experts, known as Perfect Masters, to join him in the new human society; each is chosen for their knowledge and the fact that they are sterile. Teddy Ottinger will teach engineering, Geraldine O'Connor biology and genetics, and Dr. Giles Lowell medicine. Kalki's wife Lakshmi is herself a physicist, and Kalki is a chemist. [[spoiler:Giles betrays the group and is murdered, bringing the total to four. The surviving members die childless, and Kalki finishes Teddy's memoir (and the novel) while preparing to bequeath Earth to the monkeys.]]
** HowWeGotHere: Teddy opens the book while sitting in the White House, reflecting on how she began her story unemployed and in debt. "Is this a success story?" [[spoiler:The reason she has moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is because her entire species is dead, and Kalki has made the mansion into his home. The "success" is darkly ironic, and Teddy dies before the book is completed.]]
** TheStarscream: Giles/[[spoiler:Ashok]] met and groomed J.J. Kelly as a medical student, a partnership which continued when Kelly adopted the "Kalki" persona and used Giles' base in New Orleans as a front for his drug empire. [[spoiler:Giles' avarice gets the better of him and he tries to hijack the new human race.]]
** TheTriadsAndTheTongs: Kalki made his fortune by getting into bed with Asian crime elements. Unfortunately, the up-and-coming Senator White is being funded by a rival syndicate, who are using White's "anti-drug" platform as a cover for having Kalki removed from the drug trade by force.
** UnwittingPawn: Teddy, a celebrity novelist and washed-up test pilot, is mysteriously selected to cover the Kalki story by the editor of ''The Sun''. There are also numerous spies both within and outside the cult, and starts to suspect that she was placed there as a government plant. Worse yet, she believes that Kalki might be aware of the conspiracies against his life and conspired to summon her to Katmandu as a double-agent. [[spoiler:This turns out to be correct: Kalki needed a pilot to distributed his poison-laced lotteries across the globe.]]
** YourDaysAreNumbered: Kalki seems unperturbed by the various threats on his life; CIA, DEA, Chinese gangsters, the South Koreans, any number of government would like to see Kalki dead. [[spoiler:Kalki hires an actor to take a bullet for him, leaving him free to carry out his apocalypse on schedule.]]

* ''Creation'' (1981)

** BlueAndOrangeMorality: How the Buddha and Buddhism is dealt with in this book. A philosophy beyond all human earthly concerns.
** CrossoverCosmology: Vidal in his introduction noted that the Fourth Century BC had the likes of Zoroaster, Gautam Buddha, Vardhaman Mahavir, Confucius and Socrates existing as near-contemporaries but separated by great distances and that it was ''plausible'' for a single man who lived long to have met all these people ''in theory'', though in practice the distances and modes of travel made such far reaching contact impossible. For RuleOfCool he enforced this trope to create a realistic version of this trope.
** ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: For Cyrus Spitama, the narrator of the book, who ''is'' highly biased, Greeks have this as a natural condition, noting that many of its former leaders first court Persia's support but later spit on its mercy.
** CloserToEarth: Confucius is shown this way, and indeed he defines his worldview in like manner. He's also shown to be a...
** CoolTeacher: Very cool indeed.
** CultureClash: This is a running theme of the book, the fact that different cultures, even in the ancient world have different ways of grappling at the world and looking at the problems of creation. Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of Zoroaster despite his own religious beliefs, travels across the world and encounters different beliefs and ideas and notes similarities and points of difference.
** TheGreatestHistoryNeverTold: The book takes a hard look at the places of history that most HollywoodHistory neglects, showing a more complex, connected picture of the Ancient World than you would otherwise believe.
*** Persia, pre-Alexander is shown to be a vast multi-cultural Empire whose political support is courted by several Greek city states, including Athens and several deposed politicians and Greek Tyrants come to Persia when they retire or defeated, that it becomes almost a RunningGag.
*** The book also describes the presence of democractic communities in Ancient India, in Vaishali.
*** The book also examines different belief systems and presents a less HollywoodHistory version of it, with Buddhism and the Buddha shown to be indifferent to human suffering as a whole and which he affirms as an ideal to aspire to.
** HistoricalHeroUpgrade: From a Western perspective, Darius, Xerxes and Persian culture as a whole gets this. Shown to be decidedly more complex and interesting than more famous versions [[note]]*cough* ''ThreeHundred'' *cough*[[/note]] would allow.
** InThePastEveryoneWillBeFamous: Cyrus Spitama grew up with Xerxes, Artemisia in the court of Darius and Atossa. He himself witnesses Zoroaster's death and is his grandson and heir. He later visits India and meets Vardhaman Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, King Bimbisara and King Ajatashatru. Then he visits China and meets Confucius. In Greece, he meets Pericles, Herodotus, Aspasia, Socrates and others and also Themistocles and Thucydides for good measure. SeenItAll doesn't begin to define him.
** TheUsurper: [[spoiler: The book reveals Darius to be one. Taking the famous alternative theory that the false king Mardos was in fact the true king and the former killed him, and likely Cambyses, to become King. This in fact gives Xerxes, his son, much angst. It also subverts this greatly, since Darius is shown to be a very wise, good king indeed.]]
** WomenAreWiser: The book plays with this trope in many ways, with Cyrus' mother, Atossa, Darius' wife and Xerxes' mother and Aspasia all playing major, uncredited, behind-the-scenes roles in the many political struggles that define history.

* ''American Chronicles'' (aka ''Narratives of Empire'') series (1973-2000)
** AcheyScars: Jess Smith's appendectomy scar. It aches whenever somebody is sniffing around his operations.
** AluminumChristmasTrees: ''Holluwood'' caught negative reviews for inventing a female newspaper publisher in 1939; however, Vidal was quick to point out that Eleanor Patterson took control of a D.C. paper less than twenty years later.
** AntagonistInMourning: UsefulNotes/WoodrowWilson's nemesis, Henry Cabot Lodge, doesn't know what to do with himself once Wilson is deposed and living out his last days on S Street.
** BigScrewedUpFamily: The Sanfords.
** BusCrash: [[spoiler:Clay Overbury]] in ''The Golden Age''.
** TheCasanova: John Hay, Lincoln's aide and confidante, is a self-styled one. Aaron Burr in ''Burr'' is presented as another one, considered to have fathered more than a few illegitmate children, with future president Martin Van Buuren cited as one as per rumor, [[spoiler: and the other one being the protagonist Charles Schuyler.]]
** ComicallyMissingThePoint: The Senate Majority Leader, Henry Cabot Lodge, is shattered when he learns of UsefulNotes/WarrenHarding's death. When asked if they were close, Lodge says of course not; he's upset that UsefulNotes/CalvinCoolidge is now President.
** DaEditor: Caroline Sanford and her brother, Blaise.
** DeadpanSnarker: When UsefulNotes/EleanorRoosevelt returns from seeing the doctor, [[UsefulNotes/FranklinDRoosevelt FDR]] wheels past and jokingly asks "What did he have to say about that big ass of yours?" Without pausing, Eleanor replies "I'm afraid ''you'' weren't mentioned."
** DepopulationBomb: The flu epidemic of 1918. It sweeps the globe, bumps off more people in a year than the Black Plague did in its entire run, and leaves the survivors hobbled for roughly a year (thus truly ruining their health). Sen. Day catches the flu and is never, ever quite the same again. There is also a running theme of illness and decay in ''Hollywood'' and ''The Golden Age''; the Presidents' fragile health renders each a sort of DeadManWalking, marking time until their bodies inevitably shut down.
** DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Burden]], after Overbury throws him under the proverbial bus.
** {{Eagleland}} : A real {{Deconstruction}} of the same showing how the image was built and sustained over several different decades for political purpose. In ''Burr'', Aaron Burr and Hamilton, while they were still friends discuss the new republic with Burr admitting that for all its aspirations, political life in America was the same as it was in the English Parliament and indeed in Ancient Rome, not really the break from the old that its Founders envisioned or made the public believe in.
** EvilCripple: Wilson, to an extent. Rendered immobile by a stroke, [[BeardOfEvil bearded]], baring his teeth in a manner Sen. Day describes as "lupine", the President is understandably less merciful than in his prime. Even in defeat, he still has enough influence to scuttle the Presidential ambitions of his son-in-law, William [=McAdoo=], before [=McAdoo=]'s campaign even starts.
** FallenHero: Warren Harding, the fallen President who might have been great.
** TheFisherKing: UsefulNotes/WoodrowWilson's [[TheWhiteHouse White House]] is an ice palace, with padlocked fences and all activity carefully concentrated in a tiny upstairs study, and only Mrs. Wilson and the President's physician allowed in. Contrast with Harding, whose White House exudes warmth and is made open to the public. By the end of the novel, though, it becomes as haunted and empty as it was under his predecessor.
** ForegoneConclusion: Harding's inexorable rise to the Presidency is observed with awe by ''Hollywood's'' main characters. For a time, he seems to be just what the nation needs, making the abrupt collapse of his administration and Harding's sudden death all the more shocking.
*** Any scene with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nobody believes that this sickly naval clerk will amount to anything.
** GeneralFailure: Aaron Burr regards George Washington as this, comparing his military record unfavorably to Horatio Clinton, Charles Lee and even Benedict Arnold.
** HistoricalHeroUpgrade: Gore Vidal doesn't believe in heroes or villains, with even Historical Domain bad guys like Aaron Burr revealed to be a more complex and likable figure than his notoriety would allow, showing the context of the actions that would define him and largely putting the entire generation of the founders into perspective.
** HistoryRepeats: W.G. Harding's "Voyage of Understanding", a transcontinental tour to rally the people, reminds Burden of a similar trip made by Wilson to drum up support for the League, leaving Washington at the mercy of Lodge's associates. It is not meant as a flattering comparison.
** IHaveNoSon: Burden's father, a veteran of [[UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar Chickamauga]], disowned him for leaving the People's Party to run as a Democrat.
** IncestIsRelative: Peter and Enid in ''Washington D.C''. The novel is a semi-biographical account of Vidal's early life, with Enid as an avatar of Nina Gore, his mother. [[{{Squick}} So, yeah]]. Considering his vocal dislike of [[AllPsychologyIsFreudian Freudian]] analyses, this might be LampshadeHanging on the author's part.
** LadyDrunk: Enid.
** LukeIAmYourFather: In ''Burr'', UsefulNotes/MartinVanBuren is posited to be an illegitimate son of Aaron Burr. The last page of the novel unmasks [[spoiler:the narrator, Charles Schuyler, as yet another of Burr's children]].
** MadnessMantra: Day is torn between the political realities of Washington and stern admonitions from his late father, a populist who despised the federal government. The Senator frequently hears the words "the people" rattling in his brain, driving him up the wall.
** MostWritersAreWriters: Peter Sanford in ''Washington D.C'', and ''The Golden Age''.
*** WriteWhoYouKnow: This, too. It gets [[BreakingTheFourthWall especially meta]] once he and Peter engage in conversation.
** NotEvilJustMisunderstood: The subject of ''Burr'' goes to great lengths to paint himself as this.
** ObfuscatingStupidity: Warren Harding surprises many of his so-called supporters by revealing himself to be a crafty politician. Internally, Burden wonders if Harding's image as a folksy, third-tier candidate was all [[DivideAndConquer an elaborate ruse]].
** OldMediaAreEvil: William Randolf Hearst and his numerous disciples, although their control over public opinion isn't evil so much as pragmatic. Later, the influence of the press gives away to a vastly more powerful medium: [[NewMediaAreEvil movies!]]
** PassiveAggressiveKombat: The Roosevelts are blackbelts.
** RealPersonFic: The books loosely follow the Sanfords, a clan of [[BeenThereShapedHistory Gumps]] who mix with Washington society. A secondary protagonist, James Burden Day, is introduced in ''Washington, D.C''.
** RiddleForTheAges: Who killed Jess Smith? It's implied in the book that Smith was [[HeKnowsTooMuch assassinated]] as part of a coverup of the Teapot Dome scandal.
** SanitySlippage: Mary Todd Lincoln.
** SiblingRivalry: Blaise keeps hoping (indeed, praying) for his sister to fail at something.
** SleazyPolitician: Clay Overbury in ''Washington D.C'' is portrayed as a [[UsefulNotes/JohnFKennedy Kennedy]]-esque [[TheCharmer charmer]] whose cutthroat true nature is mostly hidden.
** StageNames: Movie mogul Caroline Sanford goes undercover as "Emma Traxler."
** StealthInsult: In their one scene together, UsefulNotes/TheodoreRoosevelt is busting FDR's balls for being a DeskJockey. Franklin, [[TheUnsmile trying not to grimace]], agrees with him and laments, "We must serve where we can do the best for our our country, and not ourselves." (This subtle jab does not escape T.R.'s attention.)
** StraightGay: Blaise Sanford is an in-universe example of this trope.
** ThanatosGambit: In the novel ''Burr'', it is strongly suggested (citing actual historical evidence) that UsefulNotes/AlexanderHamilton took pains to ensure that if he were killed in the duel, he would ruin Burr's political career in the process and disgrace him forever.
** TragicHero: Sen. James Burden Day.
** VerbalTic: Jess Smith's "Whaddaya know?" He also can't stop whistling a folk tune, "My God, How the Money Rolls In", a hint to his role as Harding's bag-man.
** WellDoneSonGuy: Blaise Sanford prizes his protégé, Clay, over his own family. Burden's relationship with his father is noted to have been similarly testy.
** YankTheDogsChain: Burden's quest for the presidency. Teddy Roosevelt seems a shoe-in for the 1920 race, then abruptly dies. Wilson is slated to appoint Burden his VP for an unprecedented third term -- until the League of Nations implodes on him. Finally, once the curtain closes on the Ohio Gang, no one is left standing but Coolidge, whom Burden will "inevitably" [[DramaticIrony trounce in the '24 race]].
** YesMan: Since little is known about John Wilkes Booth's co-conspirator David Herold, he's depicted in ''Lincoln'' as one of these. UpToEleven with Jess Smith, another shadowy figure in hitory; here he is portrayed as a lumbering, slow-witted grocery clerk who somehow lucked out and befriended a future advisor to Warren Harding, himself an obscure newspaper man whose star was on the rise. In that sense, Jess is a tragic figure because he does what he's (implicitly) told to do, and scapegoated when his masters are caught with their hands in the till. The end of the novel strongly suggests he was assassinated as part of the cover-up, even though Jess' nature has been established as the sort unlikely to flip on his "friends."
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