Politics is a subject that’s seldom addressed directly in California fiction. Authors may have had political agendas, of course, or they may have mentioned political machinations somewhere in their books. But digging around in elections, legislation or government operations has almost never yielded dominant characters or primary story lines. Among the Famous Fifty (that is, the most prominent books set in California between 1890 and 1959 and written during the same period), only Jack London’s The Iron Heel fits the bill. But other California authors have also ventured into politics, though none shares London's cataclysmic vision of the future. Here’s a list of novels worth reading:
1. None but My Foe by David Duncan. Local politicians in a coastal town use fears of terrorism and worries about science to manipulate the populace.
2. The Day of Souls by Charles Tenney Jackson. A political operative in pre-earthquake San Francisco seeks a less corrupt life.
3. Comrades by Thomas Dixon, Jr. A utopian colony is created on an island off the coast to show how socialism could work out in real life.
4. The Ninth Wave by Eugene Burdick. An amoral political power broker becomes a threat to democracy in California.
5. The Face of Evil by John McPartland. A tough public relations guy goes to Newport Beach to prevent a scandal from upsetting a gubernatorial campaign.
Copies of the books are surprisingly easy to find. The Day of Souls and Comrades can be downloaded at no cost. The Face of Evil is back in print. The Ninth Wave is readily available through interlibrary loan or from internet booksellers. Those sources can also provide None but My Foe, the most obscure book on the list.