As congressional aides with vulnerable bosses wonder if they’ll still have a job come 2019, a former Capitol Hill staffer wrote a novel about just that.
The Library of Congress’ Colleen Shogan decided to set the fourth installment of her Washington Whodunit series, “K Street Killing,” in the middle of a tense midterm election.
“It’s … a matter of fact of what happens here on Capitol Hill — the uncertainty, particularly in the past 20 years, of the fact that either house usually has a chance of flipping during most election cycles,” Shogan said. “It really places additionally stress on congressional staff due to the unpredictability of the situation.”
Her protagonist, Kit Marshall, works for fictional vulnerable North Carolina congresswoman Maeve Dixon. At a fundraiser for Dixon’s campaign, a powerful K Street tycoon plummets to his death when he tumbles off the roof of lobbyist haunt Charlie Palmer Steak.
“When I was thinking about the series and different situations that I can put Kit in, I always thought that basing it around an election season and a really close campaign would make a lot of sense,” Shogan said. “I worked for a senator who was in a very tough re-election race when I worked in Congress, and I just remember that it was a very stressful and tension-filled time in the office.”
After her own years racing the Capitol halls, she feels for staffers there now.
“People don’t fully appreciate sort of the difficulties that people who work in Washington, the difficult conditions that they work under,” she said. “There’s not a lot of job security, and a lot of times, some of the decisions that are made are decisions that you can’t control. You can’t control how people vote in a district or a state.”
Her readership beyond the Hill could learn a lesson from the novel, Shogan said.
“I’m also trying to provide some information and educate them about what Capitol Hill is actually like … to sort of educate them, yeah there’s an election going on but this is how it affects real people, I think is important,” she said.
And for current staffers reading it, she thinks the story will seem familiar.
“A lot a staff, I think they’ll self-identify with that sort of feeling that I’m trying to convey in this book,” she said. “It’s not supposed to have any great revelations in it, I don’t think, except to validate some of those feelings.”
“It’s really difficult to tell a whole story about Capitol Hill without talking about interest groups and lobbyists because they’re such a big part of the business, the transactions here on a daily basis,” Shogan said.
Aside from her writing career, she is the deputy director of national and international outreach at the Library of Congress. The D.C. native likes her books to read like a tour of the city, with mentions of iconic local spots like We the Pizza, Sonoma, the Kennedy Center and Barrel Oak Winery.
“K Street Killing” was released July 15.