Political junkies in Minnesota will instantly recognize the fictitious Sen. Anders McDermott III, one of the central characters in "Capitol Hell," a new novel set in the marbled corridors of power in Washington.
A rising Republican star from Minnesota, fastidious and ambitious, with a wife pursuing a modeling career in Los Angeles and a randy octogenarian father, the character bears a striking resemblance to former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
But any resemblance to Coleman, or anyone else living or dead, is purely coincidental, according to the two young authors, Jayne Jones and Alicia Long. And so, too, is the fact that Long and Jones worked on Coleman's 2002 Senate campaign and subsequently toiled as low-level staffers in his D.C. office for several years.
Pure fiction, they say. Well, maybe not so pure. The authors acknowledge that the story draws on their real-life experiences on Capitol Hill, a place that comes across as part high-glamour political sweatshop and part 20-something playpen.
(And folks wonder why we're headed for a fiscal cliff.)
"Capitol Hell" tells the story of recent college graduate Allison Amundson, who, like Long, is a small-town girl from South Dakota who lands a job in a Minnesota senator's office. There, amid Washington strivers, an overbearing chief of staff, and a "high maintenance" boss who makes increasingly impossible demands, Allison makes a friend, Janet Johannson, a Minnesota native who could pass for the alliteratively named co-author, Jayne Jones.
Jones and Long have gone to pains to emphasize that despite the autobiographical inspiration for their book, it is a work of fiction, a compilation of gossipy stories told among overworked political staffers over margaritas at such favored D.C. watering holes as the Monocle, Hawk and Dove, and Tortilla Coast.
No doubt, the narrative arc of "Sen. McDermott's" political career, running for president and winning the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, comes closer to the life experience of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann than Coleman.
Though the fictional senator comes off more interested in his rise to fame than the people of Minnesota, Long, now an attorney living in Virginia, and Jones, an attorney teaching political science at Concordia University, profess nothing but friendship and admiration for Coleman.
That said, Minnesota readers will be particularly fascinated by the authors' antics and the senator's peccadilloes. Did Coleman really demand that his tea be heated in a fancy espresso machine and not the office microwave? Did he really interrupt "Allison" on a date to demand that she finish his laundry while he was out of town?
The McDermott office motto is "ATD," for Attention To Detail. But we'll likely never know which details in "Capitol Hell" belong to Coleman and which can be ascribed to others.
As Long told Hot Dish in an e-mail: "A good girl never kisses and tells! ;)"