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The Last Thing He Wanted


Publication Date: 



An intricate, fast-paced novel about trying to create a context for democracy and getting hands a little dirty in the process.

The narrator introduces Elena McMahon, estranged from a life of celebrity fundraisers and from her powerful West Coast husband, whom she has left, taking Catherine, her daughter, to become a reporter for The Washington Post. She finds herself boarding a plane for Florida to see her father. She becomes embroiled in her his business even though “she had trained herself since childhood not to have any interest in what he was doing.” It is from this moment that she is caught up in something much larger than she could have imagined.

Didion makes connections among Dallas, Iran-Contra, and Castro, and points out how “spectral companies with high-concept names tended to interlock.” As this book builds to its terrifying finish, we see the underpinnings of a dark historical underbelly.

A moral thriller on the order of one of Graham Greene’s.

Los Angeles Times

Read an Excerpt


Some real things have happened lately. For a while we felt rich and then we didn’t. For a while we thought time was money, find the time and the money comes with it. Make money for example by flying the Concorde. Moving fast. Get the big suite, the multi-line telephones, get room service on one, get the valet on two, premium service, out by nine back by one. Dowload all data. Uplink Prague, get some conference calls going. Sell Allied Signal, buy Cypress Minerals, work the management plays. Plug into this news cycle, get the wires raw, nod out on the noise. Get me audio, someone was always saying in the nod where we were. Agence Presse is oving this story. Somewhere in the nod we were dropping cargo. Somewhere in the nod we were losing infrastructure, losing redundant systems, losing specific gravity. Weightlessness seemed at the time the safer mode. Weightlessness seemed at the time the mode in which we could beat both the clock and affect itself, but I see now that it was not. I see now that the clock was ticking. I see now that we were experiencing not weightlessness but what is interestingly described on page 1513 of the Merck Manual (Fifteenth Edition) as a sustained reactive depression, a bereavement reaction to the leaving of familiar environments. I see now that the environment we were leaving was that of feeling rich. I see now that there will be no Resolution Trust to do the workout on this particular default, but I did not see it then.

Not that I shouldn't have.

There were hints all along, clues we should have registered, processed, sifted for their application to the general condition. Try the day we noticed that the banks had called in teh paper on all the malls, try the day we noticed that somebody had called in the paper on all the banks. Tyr the day we noticed that when we pressed 800 to do some business in Los Angeles or New York we were no longer tlaking to Los Angeles or New York but to Orlando or Tuscon or Greensboro, North Carolina. Try the day we noticed (this will touch a neerve with frequent fliers) the new necessity for changes of equipment at Denver, Taleigh-Durham, St. Louis. Try, as long as we are changing equipment in St. Louis, the unfinished but already bankrupt Gateway Airport Tower there, its boutiques boarded up, its oyster bar shuttered, no more terry-cloth robes in the empty cabanas and no more amenity kits in the not quite terrazzo bathrooms: this should have alerted us, should have been processed, but we were moving fast. We were traveling light. We were younger. So was she.

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