Jayne Jones and Alicia Long spare no juicy details in their latest novel “Capitol Hell.” Jones and Long open a window on Washington, D.C. and reveal all the chaos and absurdity that goes on behind politicians’ closed doors.
“Capitol Hell” follows new college graduate Alison Amundson in her D.C. staffer debut. This small-town South Dakota girl comes to Washington fresh and naïve to all the antics of Sen. Anders McDermott III’s office. She thinks she has found the fast track to success but soon realizes challenges abound. She struggles to survive catty coworkers and McDermott’s dysfunctional family while dealing with absurd senatorial requests. When McDermott decides to run for president, life becomes more hectic than she dreamed. “Capitol Hell” opens the eyes of readers to the ridiculous lifestyle of a Washington, D.C., staffer.
The novel contains elements similar to those in “The Devil Wears Prada” and the “Legally Blonde” movies. For example, Sen. McDermott and his trendy wife Karma’s requests are reminiscent of hellish boss Miranda Priestly. Alison is forced to perform tough tasks ranging from picking up the kids to single-handedly organizing a presidential announcement in the form of a 15-city tour in less than a week. However, the persistent small town staffer refuses to crack in the Washington, D.C. pressure cooker. She takes on the Elle Woods attitude and does whatever it takes to meet the impossible bar set for her.
The characters in “Capitol Hell” are a relatable cast. After all, every office has a catty worker who was raised with a silver spoon in their mouth. Alison progresses from a naïve, bitter rookie to weathered senatorial scheduler throughout the book. By the end, this writer found herself rooting for the success of the underdog. With the odds, and sometimes the office, against her, she manages to persevere through her job and gain the appreciation she deserves.
The authors stopped by Madison this past Saturday to promote the book, which has received attention on CNN and CNBC, as well as in several publications. The authors are both from the Midwest and some have suggested the McDermott character is based on Minnesota politician and former U.S. senator Norm Coleman.
The best character by far is Karma McDermott. Her glam attitude and fashion sense kept me engaged throughout the entire campaign. Some of the ridiculous lines and antics that came from a Hollywood wannabe character are sure to make readers laugh out loud. Karma leaves all of the staffers trembling in her wake, especially Allison, who is forced to clear up any mess she has left. Everybody loves a little drama; it’s what makes a good presidential campaign. It’s never quite clear what the kooky senator’s wife will do next and author Jones agrees.
“Karma was my favorite! We just never knew what she would do next,” Jones said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
The clash between small-town Midwestern charm and high profile politics of Capitol Hill generates a tension, which mirrors the staff tension in McDermott’s office. Janet and Alison bond over their upbringing of hard work while many of the other workers seem to be pampered pooches. McDermott dismisses a classic hotdish meal for more than six hundred dollars worth of good old McDonald’s for him and his volunteers. But he’s left with a nasty stomachache—a consequence deserved after dismissing the hard volunteer work for a home cooked meal. That’ll teach the senator to dismiss small town charm.
“Capitol Hell” has two different authors but it has a cohesive, flowing style, which makes it a real page-turner. Jones talked about how collaborating with Long on the novel was a joy and not as challenging as one might seem. The writing is seamless — it is never obvious there is an authorship change throughout the novel.
“It’s like we have one brain,” Jones said.
Some of the outrageousness is based in part on the authors’ own experience in politics from a Midwestern office to Capitol Hell … I mean Hill.
“I was naïve going to the Hill, but it was a real learning experience,” Jones said. “Some of “Capitol Hell” is fact, some fiction and some extreme embellishment. It’s up to the reader to decide for themselves.”
“Capitol Hell” is a witty and engaging novel recommended for anyone looking for a lighthearted book and will make any chick flick lover laugh out loud.