Steve Swatt, veteran news reporter and political analyst, is at the American Visions Art Gallery today, to talk about writing his new mystery novel, “Fair, Balanced… and Dead” and his work as a reporter in this area. He’ll speak at 5 pm — then he’ll sign copies of his book — a crime novel about a journalist who uncovers a massive conspiracy in the capital of California. The perfect rainy-day read and a fine gift for politically-minded friends and relatives. His book, “Fair, Balanced … and Dead,” (Trafford Publishing, $23.49, 336 pages) will be available at the event.  The presentation and book signing will be held on Saturday from 5:00 at American Visions Art Gallery, 718 Sutter Street in Historic Folsom. (916) 351-1623.  Wine and cheese will be served from 5:00 -7:00 pm.

The author’s publisher, Trafford Publishing announced earlier this month that Swatt’s book was a finalist in two significant categories in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards:  As a crime novel, and as a political thriller.

Steve Swatt

Tim Hodson, director of Sacramento’s Center for California  Studies at California State University recently wrote a book review for The Thicket, a policy newsletter.  In it, he shares comments and insight into the novel.

“There is a new addition to that small genre of mystery novels set in state capitols and involving legislatures.  Fair, Balanced …and Dead is the first novel by Steve Swatt, a long-time political reporter, now retired, for a Sacramento television station.    Swatt is following the path of John Feinstein (Running Mates) and Tony Hillerman (The Fly on the Wall) both of whom were political reporters whose early novels featured political reporters investigating murders.  In Swatt’s case, of course, the hero is a TV reporter confronting both deadly political games and a news industry increasingly disinterested and disdainful of political coverage.

A veteran U.S. Senator has died and the Republican Governor of California must select a replacement.  Various candidates emerge but the strongest are Johnny Callahan, the young charismatic Speaker of the state Assembly, whose conservatism is tempered by pragmatism and an acute awareness of being a Republican in a Democratic majority state, and Harold Barnes, an older legislator who is the champion of the right.

Allegations of a sex scandal involving the Speaker surface and TV reporter Jack Summerland is forced by a ratings-driven station to report the story.  The story proves to be untrue, embarrassing Summerland but allowing Callahan to appear the aggrieved victim.  More damaging stories follow leading Summerland to investigate the allegations, their source and a body found floating in the American River.  Dirty tricks by Barnes?  Machiavellian tactics by the Speaker’s staff?  Ancient grudges?  The work of a group of Southern California millionaires anxious to launch Callahan on a path to the White House?”

Tim Hodson’s review concludes that “Swatt captures the incestuous co-dependence of the press and politicians.”

Fair, Balanced …and Dead , he says, “is a good, if not great, read with enough twists, red herrings, and dead bodies to satisfy.  Swatt captures the atmosphere of capitol politics and peppers the book with insider descriptions of the mechanics and dynamics of television news, much like Hillerman did with print reporting in The Fly on the Wall.”

The public is invited to this interesting and informative presentation and signing.  Call the American Visions Art Gallery at (916) 351-1623 with any questions.