THE HELL CANDIDATE, Thomas Luke, 1980, Pocket Books, 423pp, paperback
A fairly moderate Republican presidential candidate suddenly changes his politics...becoming a hardline conservative, emphasizing agressiveness in social and foreign issues. Press secretary Jack Russo can't figure out what has gotten into Hunter Peal, the man he admires.
As radical as Peal's positions are getting, he is drawing amazing levels of support. With growing horror, Russo begins to realize that Peal made the proverbial deal with the devil. And anyone who gets in his path on his way to the Oval Office will pay. What will happen when he gets there?
Great horror thriller written by British writer Graham Masterton under a pen name in anticipation of the 1980 presidential elections. I read this when it originally came out and several elements have remained with me ever since. It remains hard to find. It is dated, of course, by topical political references, but remains a chilling story as Russo watches the man he followed change into something he refuses to quite grasp. Driven by ambition and fear at leaving Peal surrounded by willing sycophants and possible retaliation from jumping ship, Russo stays with Peal..
Russo tries to find a solution but how do you beat Satan himself, lusting after the most powerful job on the planet where your car has a bumper sticker that says "My other car is Air Force One"? (By the way, the little spoiler about what exactly is going on is clearly revealed on the back cover blurb. What can I say?)
Masterton seems to have a pretty good grasp of American politics of the era and the American electorate as Peal presents a vision of America in which everyone impossibly gets what they want, backed up by shared hallucinations and an appeal that transcends explanation. It was quite a departure for Masterton who had up to that point written a successful series of books on ethnic demons ranging from djinn to the Native American demon Coyote to an Indian medicine man who's been featured in a series of books.
It seems like Masterton visualized Ronald Reagan against an incumbent Jimmy Carter. although the president and his odd family are only referred to fairly obliquely. Then you throw in the "what if" principle, and now, folks, you gotta story.
Excellent read. If you like horror and come across this you should read it. Seriously.