In the summer of 2016, David Pepper ’93 LAW ’99, the current chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and a former managing editor for the News, published “The People’s House,” a work of fiction detailing vulnerabilities in the American political system — including partisanship, gerrymandering and dark money — that foreign powers could use to their advantage. In light of recent allegations of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, critics have praised the book not only for the way it reflects the American political system but also for its apparent foresight. On Monday, he released “The Wingman,” a sequel focused on “dark money.”
“We have a set of attributes to our political system that are eating away at the system’s integrity,” Pepper told the News. “The book’s purpose is to show that things like gerrymandering, the way we fund our election systems on the ground level, dark money and other weaknesses in our system add up to being far more than issues partisans bicker about. They add up to being a real vulnerability in our national security.”
“Interfering isn’t that hard,” he added.
“The Wingman” continues the story of Jack Sharpe, a fictional reporter from the Midwest, as he tries to uncover an international conspiracy in Ohio designed to elect what the book’s official synopsis calls a “corrupt and dangerous politician” to the White House. While the storyline is fictional, Pepper said that he wrote the book in a way designed to mirror America’s modern politics: It contains references to a Putin-like Russian oligarch, a sexual misconduct scandal, post-truth media and more. He also said that he hopes the book crosses partisan lines, noting that his first book on the topic focused on gerrymandering that worked to the advantage of the Democratic Party.
Nonetheless, Pepper has actively voiced his opposition to President Donald Trump. His book’s release comes less than a week after special counsel Robert Mueller filed indictments against 13 Russians for interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Because of his familiarity with politics, Pepper added, his book can provide readers with a captivating and realistic description of the subject.
“You hold on to readers because they can feel it’s real,” he said. “If a reader is reading your book and even for a moment they think something is unrealistic, you lose them. My goal was to never have that moment.”
Since its release, the sequel has received positive reception from politicians and book critics alike. His original book was also well received, although it did lead to accusations that Pepper is a Russian spy.
Gabriel Debenedetti, who covered the release of “The Wingman” for Politico, said it is important for the world to know about the similarities between Pepper’s work and reality and that the book can help nonpolitical audiences relate to and understand the political system.
“Over and over there are pieces of this book that mirror what we’re actually seeing in D.C.,” he told the News. “It’s a very accessible book, not just for a political junkie audience. It’s another way to get people aware of issues involved in our politics.”
Many major book reviewers, including The Wall Street Journal and Kirkus Reviews, have praised the book, which currently has 4.4 stars out of five on Amazon.
Anthony Rodas Estrada ’21, a fan of political novels who hopes to read “The Wingman”, said that books like Pepper’s can make politics more accessible for people not familiar with the subject.
“They are a great way for an outsider to see inside and think about what happens in Washington,” he said.
“The Wingman” is 286 pages long.
Niki Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org