California's Capitol is full of hard-drinking, skirt-chasing, and corrupt hypocrites - or so Dianne Harman, the wife of a former state senator, would have readers of her new novel, "Tea Party Teddy," believe.
The title character is "Teddy Randall," newly elected Republican assemblyman from Orange County who hates illegal immigrants and wants to drive them out of the state, but is financially strapped from his campaign, owes money to a Mafia loan shark who's pressuring him for repayment, and is willing to be bribed to vote for an immigrant-friendly bill. Randall falls for an FBI sting, but not before learning that his wife is carrying on an affair with a Latino lawyer who champions immigrant rights.
Harman's husband, Tom, was a long-serving legislator from Orange County, and she says in her acknowledgements that he "day after day asked how the book was coming along, edited numerous drafts and gave tirelessly of his expertise on how things are done in Sacramento." She doesn't say, however, whether that expertise extended to the novel's explicit sex scenes.
"Tea Party Teddy" is a roman à clef that fictionalizes several well-known incidents, such as former Assemblyman Mike Duvall's 2009 bragging on an open mike in a legislative hearing room about his sexual exploits with a lobbyist. Duvall was forced to resign. It also draws on the FBI's undercover sting investigation of the Capitol a quarter-century ago that sent several legislators, lobbyists and staffers to prison.
The novel's Capitol readers will try to match up the fictional characters, especially the title character, with real-life politicians and lobbyists. But Harman makes one connection easy. The influential "FlashReport" blog, much loved by California conservatives, is called "FlushReport" in the book.
"Tea Party Teddy is a novel about political corruption, bribes, sex, and intrigue, which all come together in the story of a newly elected assemblyman," Harman said in an email promoting the book. "While you may think you recognize some of the books' characters as being members of the Sacramento political establishment, the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
"If you want to know what really goes on behind the scenes in Sacramento, you'll find out when you read Tea Party Teddy. As the wife of a former California state senator, I had 12 years of firsthand experience in observing politicians, lobbyists, and consultants, as they struggled to gain political advantage."
The novel, available on-line or in print via Amazon, is reminiscent of another novel, "Capitol Punishment," written by a politician's former wife, that also depicted sex and corruption in and around the state Capitol.