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Fellow Travelers

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  403 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
From the highly acclaimed author of Bandbox and Dewey Defeats Truman–a searing new historical novel about the competing claims of faith, love, and politics during the McCarthy era.

Washington, D.C., in the early 1950s: a world of bare-knuckled ideology, hard drinking, and secret dossiers, dominated by such outsized characters as Richard Nixon, Drew Pearson, Perle Mesta, and
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 890)
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Mar 16, 2008 Ray rated it really liked it
So ostensibly this is a novel about being gay in the 50's in McCarthy-era Washington, D.C. But really, I liked this book so much because it is about the sacrifice of self, and the willingness (or unwillingness)to be vulnerable required by love.

I won't go into a ton of detail on the plot, but at the surface-level it's your standard tale about two gay boys who are unable to realize their love and their relationship due to homophobia and social norms. It's also a part of another gay standard in whi
Jun 19, 2008 Skip rated it liked it
I finished this novel last night. I was up early this morning to take it back to the library.
For some reason, I found this story so unnerving. So sad...Was any character truly happy? (Not that stories have to be full of happy people.)
In short, the McCarthy hearing chapters could have been better edited. It went on too long. And the whole time I was wondering if what I was reading was the true version or the fiction.

But the near-last line is the one that really tingles.
"Tell him I was happy en
Mar 18, 2009 Rhonda rated it really liked it
Ew, the 50s: cigarette smoke everywhere, Brylcreem, wet wool, B.O., rooms full of pasty white men in bad suits running the country, the world, our lives--my earliest memories. This deeply humane story is about how it couldn't have been told when it happened, and why, and what all that cost how many people--without ever being even slightly pedantic or giving off that stink art gets on it when it has a political agenda. The politics it depicts get a little murky occasionally because almost too tho ...more
Mal Warwick
Jul 07, 2016 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
Only American history majors are likely to be aware that America’s first Red Scare was sparked in 1886 by the Haymarket affair in Chicago — a demonstration by workers calling for an eight-hour day which led to widespread persecution of men, usually foreign-born, who were perceived as anarchists. Thirty-three years later a wave of anarchist bombings in the wake of World War I induced Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to recruit a 23-year-old named J. Edgar Hoover to locate and deport hundreds o ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 10, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fellow Travelers is set in Washington, DC in the early 1950s but 1991 provides a certain frame. A young (twenty-two) Tim Laughlin is seduced by a thirty-year-old Hawkins Fuller (Hawk), a handsome state representative official. They conduct a short riotous affair—flying under the radar of a homophobic Washington. When Tim realizes he can never have Hawk, he joins the Army for two and a half years. Of course, he never gets over Hawk—and he is destined to come in contact with him again, even as Haw ...more
Jul 29, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
I was so looking forward to reading this book about McCarthyism and the lavendar scare in Washington in the 1950's. But the book is cluttered with minor characters and I was not able to sustain reading it for a long period of time, so it was difficult to keep track of what was going on. The Foggy Bottom references and political name-dropping drove me on.
Lorin Cary
Sep 29, 2015 Lorin Cary rated it it was ok
Fellow Travelers, Thomas Mallon

Set in 1953-57, and bookended with two brief 1991 chapters, the novel is less about left-wing sympathizers than the relationship between two gay men: Hawkins Fuller and Timothy Laughlin. The requisite items are in place for this to be labelled as an historical novel—the frequent reference to current happenings. Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Army-McCarthy hearings, for example, play a role and there are mentions of Eisenhower, Joseph Alsop and a host of other contemp
Dec 21, 2014 Alistair rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay-fiction
This is an absorbing book about one of the most interesting periods in twentieth century America - the McCarthy era. You don't need to know a lot about the period to get the most out of this book, the author wears his research lightly. Into a cast of real historical figures, McCarthy himself, Roy Cohn, Nixon, Marron inserts two fictional ones; Hawkins Fuller, a state department official on the rise, suave, handsome and teflon-coated; and Timothy Laughlin, a recent college graduate determined to ...more
Mar 12, 2008 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
I loved this. A really immersive, atmospheric novel about a gay love affair, set in 1950s Washington against the backdrop of the McCarthy hearings.
May 29, 2007 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
LOVED this book! Great characters, interesting plot, lots of period detail (maybe a little too much at times...). Couldn't put it down.
Jun 30, 2016 Andrew rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people i hate more than anyone, margaret th*tcher
Shelves: hall-of-shame
[This review was written over a year ago]

Wow. The more I think back on reading this book, the more I want to revise its rating downward. When I first finished the book, I gave it a three, which soon gave way to a two. Today, I decided I needed to revise it down once again to a one upon even further consideration.

This novel had great potential. The truth of the era of the '50s, with the horrific Red and Lavender Scares that destroyed so many people and led to further stigmatization and mistreatme
Apr 19, 2014 Scott rated it liked it
Way too much American political history, which is of marginal interest to me. Almost too well researched I.E. More historical detail than I wanted. It seems to me that Mallon could have replaced most of it with a standard historical reference and just kept the love story.
As for the love story, neither character is really sympathetic.
Hawk not all -- he has a bad case of internalized homophobia, which might have been interesting if presented as a product of time and place, but that connection is
Aug 13, 2013 Al rated it it was amazing
I once had a friend, a high school social studies teacher, who confided that he got all his history from historical fiction. I thought it a waste of time, having to suffer through enormous epic sagas when history in the hands of a great historian can be as dynamic as any fiction. However, Thomas Mallon's "Fellow Travelers" has made me rethink my position as maybe being too hastily dismissive. "Fellow Travelers" is historical fiction at its best, weaving the political events of Washington's "pink ...more
May 25, 2007 Kelly rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: self-loathing homos, people fascinated with the McCarthy Trials
Shelves: abandoned, queer
I AM self-loathing (but not because I like people of the same gender) and I AM fascinated by McCarthyism; however, I did not like this book. I did not finish it, but I nearly did; some more compelling books came into my life and well, Mellon had to go. What can I say? Young boy, who is devoutly Catholic, staunchly anti-Communist, Irish New Yorker, good-looking, and really fond of milk (no comment) meets good-looking, pompous and pretty wholly unlikable and vain government employee (while working ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Tom rated it liked it
Fellow Travelers takes place in McCarthy era Washington D.C. The protaganist is a young, wet behind-the-ears, fervent catholic and anti-communist young man named Tim, who comes to Washington to follow the conviction of his beliefs. He quickly meets the charismatic, dashing, and more experienced Hawkins who helps Tim get a job. Tim quickly falls in love with Hawkins, whose relationship with Tim is somewhat more usury to say the least. Early 50s D.C. serves primarily as an ironic and pointed backd ...more
Apr 30, 2013 Russ rated it it was amazing
Conservative, religious and closeted, Timothy Laughlin is totally obsessed with Hawkins Fuller and Hawk knows it. At times Fuller appears to toy with the younger man's affections, using him and controlling him in a kind of game that ultimately leads to Fuller's own sadness. I found this story both heartbreaking and up-lifting, surely the most difficult combination for an author to pull off.

Set in the early fifties, the tale is full of the subterfuge and lying that gay life required in those bigo
Bookmarks Magazine

It's notable that many critics, even those that otherwise praise Fellow Travelers, censure Thomas Mallon for occasionally letting facts impede a good story. As in his past historical novels, including Henry and Clara and Dewey Defeats Truman, the author veils scrupulous research with well-constructed, insightful plots. This time, reviewers feel Mallon stretches to weave period references into this highly personal novel. Otherwise, Mallon, a resident of Washington, D.C., and a member of the Natio

Willo Font
May 09, 2015 Willo Font rated it did not like it
I picked this book , because I wanted to learn a bit more about the McCarthy Era. The writer obviouly assumes that you know everything that happened back then , so right from the beginning the pages are filled with names, facts, campaigns that you have no reference for and it does not explain what they where. After 85 pages I did not care about anyone , no real story had started to develop so I gave up on this mudled novel
Feb 09, 2009 Hillery rated it really liked it
Nice historical novel set in 1950s Washington during the McCarthy hearings and the Red Scare. The main characters interact with real historical figures such as Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn. The book focuses on a young male college graduate working on Capitol Hill for a Senator. This young man falls in love with a guy working at the State Department, and the book explores their relationship and how they navigate the witch-hunt environment of the times. I've read two other historical novels by thi ...more
Amanda Clay
Jun 13, 2007 Amanda Clay rated it liked it
I SO wanted to love this book, it seems to have everything I like in a story, but I had such a hard time with the characters that I ended up kinda liking it but no more. Mostly it made me want to know more about the author who, from the sound of the afterword, is himself gay. I wonder with whom he identifies, and with whom the reader is supposed to identify: the arrogant, manipulative user, or the poor schlub (sp?) who falls for him and then decides that the best plan for his life is to allow hi ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Deb rated it really liked it
Thomas Mallon writes historical fiction with an emphasis on American political history. His latest is set in Washington during the McCarthy era, and concerns the relationship between Hawkins Fuller, a waspy State Department official and Timothy Laughlin, a conservative, devoutly Catholic aide to a Republican senator. Homosexuality being considered as much a "security risk" as communism, both men were of course closeted, but Washington was a town of open secrets and politics was a game of "who ha ...more
Aug 25, 2015 Brandon rated it really liked it
A gripping historic novel set in McCarthy era DC. It's rich in detail about how poorly homosexuals were treated during this time. A sad but enjoyable read.
Jun 25, 2008 Ann rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 1950's history buffs, Joe McCarthy haters
Recommended to Ann by: Judy, I think
Well researched novel set in Washington, D.C. against the background of the rise and fall of McCarthy.

I'm mixed about this. While I much enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, by the end, I got tired of the detail about politics. Yeah, this is ME I'm talking about - tired of politics!

I felt some of this got in the way of the story, and that much of the detail about who was in/who was out/who liked or hated whom also detracted from the character development.

I didn't shed a tear at the end, wh
Eric Smith
Dec 05, 2013 Eric Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, fiction
I really enjoyed this book, couldn't put it down and would give it five stars except for one problem: history. If you don't know much about American history in the 1950's and the important people of that time, then this book will be a constant trip to Wikipedia and a bore. That said, the plot is fascinating: two closeted gay men in the State Department, one fresh our of college and the other a mature adult (32), and the tortured experience they have during the McCarthy era. If you know some abou ...more
Louis Macko
Feb 03, 2016 Louis Macko rated it liked it
Probably would enjoy it better now that I'm older. Read this as a closeted high school virgin who hadn't taken APUSH yet.
Jun 03, 2015 Neena rated it liked it
Political story of the difficulties of being gay in the time of McCarthyism (the 50's). I was lost - didn't know the players.
Jan 10, 2008 Cliff rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
Could not finish this book. I'm fascinated by the blacklisting that happened in the 1950s. This book just shows a glimmer.

Story of a page during the McCarthy era in Washington. Also features notables that were prominent during the proceedings-McCarthy, Kennedy and Roy Cohn (who was also a major character in Angels In America).

The proceedings is a backdrop to the one sided relationship between the young, innocent page and a selfish high official within the federal government.

Story reminds me o
Mike Adams
Sep 21, 2014 Mike Adams rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of gay goverment guys in the McCarthy era.
Mike Perry
Jul 29, 2015 Mike Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To my shame, I didn't know about Mallon until this a few months ago. Have since read everything he's written. More than politics, more an exploration of what the human condition is capable of in everyday life. That's a poor description, sorry. I know more about life and Washington that I did before, much more.
Oct 05, 2007 Scott rated it really liked it
A good book about an interesting time period for US history. The novel talkes place during the McCarthy era and involves the coming of age of a young man who works on Capitol Hill.

This young man becomes involve with high power worker in Congress, Hawkins Fuller. They have to be careful of their affair due to the witch hunt on capitol hill for both gays and communists.

The history is a great addition to the plot, because there are times that you want to slep Tim, the main character. Ah, but youthf
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Thomas Mallon is a novelist, critic and director of the creative writing program at The George Washington University.

He attended Brown University as an undergraduate and earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He received the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1994 and won a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1987. Mallon taught English at Vassar College from 1979-1991.

Mallon is the author of the
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“he’d spent his whole life trying to make God love him—and that this didn’t matter in the slightest. All that mattered was that he loved God. He told me that once he knew this he was home free.” 2 likes
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