“The Corcoran Affair by Philip Lentz is a political thriller about a socially conservative, Republican president who discovers that he has HIV due to an extra-marital affair and how that president interacts with the press and the public. The author is a veteran of Paul Tsongas’ campaign for the presidency and has worked as a journalist so he is familiar with the challenges of a politician with health problems and is familiar with journalism. While the author did not work on any Republican campaigns, he clearly understands the issues of hypocrisy that would face a social conservative in the position in which his protagonist finds himself.
The story follows the scandal with a sense of urgency as it unfolds through several characters and in several locations throughout the United States. What is, perhaps, most poignant is that, while it is the president’s hypocrisy that is the scandal, the moral integrity of many of the other characters, including many of those laboring to bring it to light, is also highly compromised. In that sense, whether intentionally or not, the novel highlights many of the moral failings that have plagued public life in this country and leave the reader seriously wondering that there may have been some merit to the days of old (think FDR and JFK) when a president’s private personal failings were considered off limits. That now defunct truce understanding the press and politicians did have the virtue of forcing a little more focus on the substantive issues. Conversely, the novel also leaves one with the uncomfortable observation that unscrupulous and unethical journalists may sometimes serve some social utility. This sense of moral ambiguity will appeal to those who like their fiction to have a more realistic feel.
This is a short novel so it would not be fair to give away much of the story. Let it be sufficient to say that the ending is well-balanced in that it is believable while being neither over-the-top dramatic or unbelievably bland. The only real criticism I have is that the book could have used another round of editing for errors although I know as well as anyone that no book goes to press completely error free.”