The Hellfire Club


By Jake Tapper

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A young Congressman stumbles on the powerful political underworld of 1950’s D.C. in this “potent thriller” (David Baldacci) and New York Times bestseller from CNN correspondent Jake Tapper.

Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. When Charlie discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance, he has to fight not only for his principles and his newfound political career…but for his life.


We are not reformers. We are reporters. As such we will take you with us through a metropolitan area of 1,500,000, living in what should be a utopia, but which is a cesspool of drunkenness, debauchery, whoring, homosexuality, municipal corruption and public apathy, protected crime under criminal protectionism, hoodlumism, racketeering, pandering and plundering, among anomalous situations found nowhere else on earth.

—Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer,
Washington Confidential, 1951

Chapter One

Friday, March 5, 1954—Dawn

Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC

He snapped out of the blackness with a mouth full of mud.

Charlie Marder coughed up grime and spat silt, then raised himself on his elbows and tried to make sense of where he was.

Sprawled on the leafy banks of a creek, he wore a tuxedo that was insufficient to combat the March chill. A wispy fog hovered; sporadic chirping came from nearby families of wrens rising with the sun.

A stone bridge and paved road lay in front of him. Wincing with the effort, he hoisted himself onto his knees and turned. Behind him, a semi-submerged Studebaker sat in the creek’s muddy bank, its driver’s door open.

He squinted and could just make out, downstream, the recently restored old Peirce Mill and its waterwheel. He was in Rock Creek Park, 1,754 acres of woods, trails, and road tucked in Northwest Washington, DC, far from his Georgetown brownstone.

How did I get here?

Charlie said it to himself, first in his head and then as a whisper and then repeating it aloud: “How did I get here?” His voice was gravelly. He stumbled as he tried to stand, and realized that he was drunk. His mouth was parched. Where had he been drinking?

He looked at his Timex, adjusting his wrist to catch the light: 4:55 a.m. Memories began to emerge—a party, a celebration, a club of some sort. Frank Carlin, the powerful House Appropriations Committee chairman, encouraging a young, attractive waitress to do something. What was it? She poured ice water onto a sugar cube held on a flattened perforated spoon over a glass. And the glass contained absinthe. “This is how the French do it,” Carlin said. And from there the night went dark.

Charlie staggered forward. Looked back at the Studebaker. Muddy tracks traced the car’s path from the road to its final resting place on the riverbank. Okay. I skidded off the parkway. This was a problem. But nothing insurmountable. An accident. Maybe he could just walk away. He didn’t recognize the car, had no recollection of being behind the wheel. “Absinthe,” he muttered under his breath.

He took stock of the situation. This was not even a ripple in the ocean of atrocities he’d witnessed in France during the war. He was not a person of poor character. He was someone who tried to do good; he was currently fighting for his fellow troops from the turret of his congressional office. In the grand scheme of things, would it be so wrong to just leave the scene and spare himself a litany of questions he might not be able to answer?

And then he heard it: a low din, a car’s motor heading toward him. Ah, well, Charlie thought. Fate is making the decision for me. I’ll stand here and face whatever happens. He exhaled, steeling himself.

With relief, he recognized the spit-shined baby-blue Dodge Firearrow sport coupe. It belonged to someone he knew, a friend, even: well-connected lobbyist Davis LaMontagne. It was a car perfectly suited to its owner, glossy and stylish. LaMontagne pulled the car to a stop at the side of the road and rolled down his window.

“Charlie,” he said, “Jesus Christ.”

He opened the door and emerged, looking as though he’d just stepped out of the pages of a magazine ad for cigarettes or suits. His hair slicked back, his blue hip-length bush jacket hanging loosely from his broad Rocky Marciano build, he briefly surveyed the scene, then began to negotiate his way carefully down the rocky, muddy decline toward Charlie.

“Davis,” Charlie said. “I have no idea—” He spread his arms to finish the sentence for him.

Before LaMontagne could respond, they heard a sound in the distance.

Another car.

Its windows must have been open despite the morning chill; as it drew closer, they could hear the bark of a radio newscaster. LaMontagne didn’t move, as if he were freezing the action in his world until this problem took care of itself.

And it did. The sounds of car and radio changed pitch, suggesting the car, off in the distance, was now driving away from them.

Unruffled, LaMontagne continued his approach and arrived at Charlie’s side. Charlie was hit with a whiff of his smoky, woody cologne.

“Are you all right?”

“Fine,” Charlie said, though his head was throbbing and he would have given his left arm for a glass of water. “Do you have any idea how I got here?”

“Last I saw you was at the party,” LaMontagne said. “You were snockered. Then you made an Irish exit.” He raised his hand and made an elegant illustrative explosion with his fingertips: poof. “You okay? Jesus. Thank God you’re alive.” LaMontagne looked over his shoulder at the Studebaker. “Whose car is that?”

Charlie suppressed a wave of nausea; when it passed, he rubbed his chin and shrugged. “I have no idea.”

LaMontagne pulled on his black leather gloves, took a folded handkerchief from his suit pocket, and leaned into the driver’s seat of the Studebaker. He wiped the steering wheel, the gearshift, the radio knobs, and the window roller; on his way out, he removed the keys from the ignition, then wiped the door handle. Sliding the keys into his pocket, he stood up straight and put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder.

“Let’s burn rubber,” he said.

Charlie let himself be guided briskly up to the road and the Dodge, where he collapsed with relief in the passenger seat as LaMontagne shut the door firmly.

Halfway around the front of the car, the man suddenly stopped. Through the windshield, Charlie saw him looking down at the narrow shoulder of the road.

“Charlie,” LaMontagne said, a seriousness in his baritone Charlie had never heard before. “You need to see this.”

Charlie exited and joined LaMontagne, who was staring at what at first appeared to be a bundle of discarded clothes in a narrow drainage ditch but upon closer examination proved to be a young woman lying on her right side, facing away from the road, her left arm twisted awkwardly behind her. Blood had soaked through the back of her low-cut dress.

Charlie’s heart thudding into his lungs, he slowly knelt on the grass and gently rolled the woman toward him; she fell onto her back. She had red hair and couldn’t have been more than twenty-two. Charlie had vague memories of her from the night before. Is she a cocktail waitress, maybe?

He looked up at LaMontagne in disbelief, but the man’s gaze was elsewhere, back toward the spot where he’d found Charlie. “I didn’t think anything of it before, but the passenger door of that Studebaker is open. Jesus. Do you think she fell out of your car?”

Fighting his rising anxiety, Charlie gingerly placed two fingers on the side of the woman’s neck. She was porcelain pale and still. Her eyes were closed, sealed by thick fake lashes. Her body was cool to the touch. He could feel no pulse.

He looked at LaMontagne and shook his head slowly.

“Christ,” said LaMontagne. He squatted and put two fingers on the woman’s neck to see for himself. Then on her wrist. He hung his head briefly, then seemed to collect himself. He stood, moved behind the young woman’s lifeless body, bent down, and threaded his arms beneath her shoulders.

Charlie was numb, motionless.

LaMontagne looked at him with gravity and impatience.

“Congressman,” he said sharply. “Grab her feet.”

Chapter Two

Thursday, January 14, 1954

Arena Stage, Washington, DC

The self-satisfaction was almost like a physical presence in the theater lobby, a distinct mélange of aromas exclusive to the halls of power—high-priced perfume and expensive hors d’oeuvres, top-shelf liquor and freshly minted cash. It all billowed into a rich toxic cloud that made Charlie Marder’s throat constrict.

Charlie generally prided himself on his ease in social settings, but tonight he was on edge, feeling oddly exposed while he waited for Margaret to return from the powder room. As a professor at Columbia, he’d given countless lectures, attended dozens of professional functions, and even made a few TV appearances when Sons of Liberty, his book on the Founding Fathers, hit the bestseller list four years before. Tall and broad-shouldered with piercing blue eyes, Charlie had found it easy to navigate the worlds of academia and literary celebrity. But he felt out of his element here, surrounded by political and press powerhouses drinking and smoking and chortling among themselves.

He rubbed the back of his neck, scanning the room for any sign of Margaret. The crowd, of course, couldn’t have cared less about his anxiety, busy as they were with their own competing agendas. He ambled around the auditorium to pass the time; bits of conversations flew by his ears:


Let’s just say my respect for the congressman knows bounds.

If the court rules to desegregate, it’s going to get ugly.

No, I don’t hate musicals. I just don’t understand them. Why would people break out in song? And even suspending disbelief, the songs are seldom any good.

No kids. She’s a work nun.

Has anyone actually gotten a look at the naval records of PT-109?

I’ll say it: If Ike was as weak against the Krauts as he is against McCarthy, we’d all be speaking German right now.

Did you see it? First issue came out last month. Naked Marilyn Monroe.

No, when I said they were bums, I meant the baseball team the Senators, not actual senators.

We still have troops in Korea, darling. We’ll have them there forever.

Miserably self-conscious, Charlie gulped his martini, swallowed wrong, and coughed loudly just as Senator Jack Kennedy made his entrance. Heads turned as the handsome senator glided past Charlie, glamorous new wife in tow. Charlie caught a strong whiff of bandages and ointment. He wondered which of them had recently sustained an injury. From his earliest days, Charlie had possessed an abnormally keen sense of smell. He did not consider it a gift.

He gave his empty glass to a passing waiter and watched the celebrity couple as they made their way across the plush maroon carpet to join the senator’s brother Robert. The younger Kennedy was deep in conversation with Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Republican from Wisconsin currently about to start the fifth consecutive year of a reckless smear campaign designed to drive the threat of Communism, real and imagined, from every corner of American society. Charlie knew that Robert Kennedy and McCarthy worked together on the committee McCarthy chaired, and from all appearances, they were pals as well.

Charlie’s pondering of their seemingly odd friendship ended when Margaret reappeared. Even after nine years of marriage, Charlie still felt his heart jump when he saw her. Her blond hair was swept off her forehead; a simply cut emerald-green dress made the most of her athletic frame, its color highlighting her kelly-green eyes. Eyes that betrayed no sign of the frayed nerves Charlie felt, he noticed, although she was just as new to this scene as he was; they had arrived in Washington, DC, only three weeks earlier, after Charlie was appointed to fill a congressional seat that had suddenly become vacant.

“This with-child business is murder,” Margaret said, rubbing her still-flat stomach. “It feels like our little one has rented a one-bedroom on top of my bladder.” She was roughly six weeks pregnant, they’d learned a few days ago. “Has Senator Kefauver shown up yet?”

“Nope,” said Charlie. “But the Kennedy boys have. My mom would melt like a Popsicle.”

Charlie’s mother somewhat secretly worshipped the Kennedy brood. His father, Winston, a powerful Republican lawyer in Manhattan, had a more skeptical view of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and, through the transitive property, his scions. He faulted the Kennedy patriarch for wanting to appease Hitler. For fun, he’d also bad-mouth him for having made his fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition.

Margaret glanced sideways, where a very old Herbert Hoover was hobbling through the crowd. She grimaced sympathetically as the former president gripped the golden banister and, with an expression of great pain, made his way slowly up the red-carpeted stairs.

“Mothballs,” Charlie said of Hoover after he was out of earshot.

“Poor Charlie,” Margaret said. “That nose of yours.”

“The world is not primarily peppermint.” Charlie turned his attention to the colorful lobby poster for the show preview they were about to see, The Pajama Game, which was set to debut on Broadway in the spring. “What’s it about, anyway? I mean, besides being about ninety minutes too long.” Charlie was not a fan of musicals.

“It’s about strikes,” said Margaret.

“Baseball? Bowling?” He enjoyed playing clueless sidekick to Margaret’s straight man.

“Unions, dear.”

“Of course,” said Charlie. “Who wouldn’t look at sweaty longshoremen in Hoboken, New Jersey, and think, You know what? I’d love to see them sing and dance!

“This isn’t On the Waterfront, sweetheart, this strike is at a pajama factory.” Margaret straightened his tie. “Remember that book I read last summer? Seven and a Half Cents?”

“Honey, I can’t keep track,” Charlie said. “You go through more bestsellers than a McCarthy bonfire.”

Margaret tsked and rolled her eyes. “Anyway, this is based on the book I read. The head of the grievance committee, a lady, falls in love with the supervisor who’s rejecting her pleas for a seven-and-a-half-cent wage increase.”

“In bed with the opposition,” Charlie said. “This crowd will love it.”

Margaret gestured toward the Kennedys. “That’s right, I’d read that McCarthy and the Kennedys were very close. And isn’t ‘Tail Gunner Joe’ godfather to one of Bobby’s kids?”

“Dad says no one who knows him calls him Bobby—it’s Bob,” Charlie said. “I think the godfather thing is just a rumor. It’s odd, though, these Democratic princes befriending my party’s fire-breathing dragon. We’re going to need a flowchart to keep track of all the alliances.”

“I guess Irishmen can be pretty tribal,” Margaret observed. She watched the Kennedy brothers, a blur of hair and teeth, as they greeted well-wishers. She leaned closer to her husband and lowered her voice when she said, “Speaking of rumors, I heard quite a few about Jack from the nurses.”

“Such as?”

“All the stuff you’d expect. That the Boston crowd rounds up girls to join them in private parties. Coeds from GW and Catholic U.”

“From Catholic?” Charlie said. “Not with all those nuns around. Even Jack would be scared.”

“Charlie,” Margaret said incredulously, “you think our courageous Lieutenant Kennedy, who survived the Japs taking out his PT boat, braved sharks and riptides, and beat back dengue fever and cannibals, will be deterred by a couple of bearded nuns?”

“I don’t recall that story having cannibals before.” Charlie smiled. “Ambassador Kennedy ought to put you on the payroll along with the rest of the press corps; that’s a nice touch.”

Margaret grinned, then swallowed half the smile. “It’s disappointing to hear,” she said. “About Jack. I thought he was presidential timber.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t be surprised, Margaret. If he’s really presidential material, one expects a certain sangfroid.”

Margaret looked askance at her husband. “You’re actually making the argument that presidential timber requires a willingness to commit adultery? As if it’s an asset?

“Not an asset per se.” Charlie smiled, lighting a cigarette. “How would Aristotle put it? All men who cheat are bastards. All presidents need to be able to be bastards. Therefore, all presidents should cheat!”

“That’s not what I meant by presidential timber, Charlie,” Margaret said. She laughed and took a drag from his cigarette before returning it to him.

“There’s Carlin.” Charlie gave a friendly wave to a tall and wiry man with slicked-back gray hair: Congressman Franklin Harris Carlin, the GOP chairman of the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee, which disbursed almost fifty billion dollars each year. The Republicans had recaptured control of the House in 1952 in the Eisenhower landslide. With discretion over the distribution of such largesse, Carlin was one of the most popular men in town. Even in a city built on the swampy foundation of transaction, Carlin was notorious for always seeking out ways he could gain even more advantage.

Carlin saw Charlie’s wave and responded with a cold look of disdain before he turned his head.

“Goodness!” Margaret gave a short laugh of surprise. “Did you kill his puppy or something, Charlie?”

Although reeling a bit from the snub, Charlie had a feeling he knew its source. “My first Appropriations Committee meeting was today,” Charlie said. “I said one thing. One thing! There was a company I didn’t think deserved taxpayer dollars.”

“What company?”

“Goodstone,” Charlie said. “They made the gas masks. The ones that didn’t work.”

“Oh dear,” said Margaret.

As an army captain in Europe during World War II, Charlie had led a platoon in battle for almost a year. In France there had been a tragedy caused by defective gas masks; Margaret knew little about the catastrophe other than the fact that Charlie remained haunted by it. Only twice in the nine years since the war had ended had Charlie tried to describe any of the horrors he’d witnessed, and both times he’d become so shaken by emotion, he had to leave the room. This was the first time she’d heard the masks were made by the famous Goodstone Rubber and Tire Company.

A waiter with a tray of martinis was passing. Charlie snagged two glasses and handed one to his wife. He gulped down his as if it were water from a canteen.

“One of the Democrats on the committee said, ‘That was a decade ago.’” Charlie shook his head. “I reminded him that Truman as a senator raked a bunch of companies over the coals for profiteering and shoddy workmanship.”

“That’s right,” Margaret said. “Carnegie sent steel that caused the hull of that ship to crack.”

“Right,” said Charlie, “and there were cruddy plane engines, dud grenades. Those companies were punished. Of course, Democrats don’t much like talking about Truman these days.”

“How come I never read anything about Goodstone?” Margaret asked, sipping her drink.

“I guess journalists don’t know about it. And I don’t know if there were any other incidents. I tried to get information after the war but I hit a wall. Maybe I should try again; maybe the calls of a congressman will get returned.”

Margaret peered into the crowd. “Isn’t that Joe Alsop?” She tilted her chin toward a dark-haired man in his forties gracelessly gesturing as he explained something to a small group. Alsop and his brother wrote an influential syndicated newspaper column.

“Yep,” said Charlie. “Navy man. POW.”

“Well, tell him about Goodstone!” she said. “Now’s your chance!”

“Oh no, Margaret,” he said. “This isn’t the time or place.” He paused, thoughtful. “It was probably naive of me to think I could get my way so soon; I don’t have enough capital here yet to push anything. I just said I wasn’t going to vote to give Goodstone any money after their masks failed me and my men.”

“What happened after you told them that?”

“The discussion kind of just stopped, and they all started talking among themselves, pretty much ignoring me. Lots of murmuring. Then Chairman Carlin said we would reconvene at a later date. When I approached him after to try to smooth matters over, he gave me the brush-off.”

“Hmm,” Margaret said. She sipped her drink and met Charlie’s gaze.

“Actually, come to think of it, some of the other vets—Strongfellow and MacLachlan and a few others—were the most, um, murmury. Is that a word?”

“It most certainly is not.”

“Look over there,” said Charlie, discreetly pointing through the crowd to a plain-looking man with a wide smile who was leaning on metal crutches. “There’s Strongfellow by the bar.”

“The war hero, right?”

“Every veteran in politics claims to be a war hero,” Charlie said. “But Strongfellow really is one.”

“Well, you’re all heroes as far as I’m concerned,” Margaret said. “Either way, you should convince him and all the other veterans in Congress to block this nonsense. We don’t need the next generation of American soldiers dying in Indochina or Hungary because of war profit—”

Margaret was interrupted by a clamor at the door; Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Patricia, had arrived. A coterie of photographers and reporters began peppering the Second Couple with questions and requests for posed pictures. The Nixons obliged, after which the vice president made a beeline for the Kennedys. Jack shook Nixon’s hand while Bob Kennedy patted him on the back.

Margaret placed her empty martini glass on the windowsill and pulled a cigarette from the pack in her purse; Charlie deftly lit it for her with an aluminum trench lighter he pulled from his pocket. It was a souvenir he’d taken from a dead German soldier in France, though he was the only one who knew its provenance.

“It’s both reassuring and disconcerting to see them all friendly-like,” Margaret said, waving her cigarette toward the circle of the Kennedys, the Nixons, and McCarthy.

The lobby lights flickered on and off, signaling the start of the show. The audience began filtering into the theater, clearing the lobby. Charlie grabbed one more martini from a passing waiter. Margaret raised an eyebrow. “Slow down, tiger, the night is young.”

Charlie shrugged unapologetically. “We’re about to watch a musical. About a union strike. I need all the fortification I can get.” Margaret jutted out her lower lip, mocking a sulk. “And more important, I want to take this occasion to toast you!” Charlie quickly added. “To have you here with me, breathing on me—I count that something of a miracle,” he said, paraphrasing Henry Miller.

He scanned the room again. “Where the devil is Kefauver, anyway?”

“Isn’t that him?” Margaret nodded at a bookish, big-boned man with a broad smile and thick spectacles moving toward them at a rapid pace. He greeted Charlie with an enthusiastic handshake.

“Charlie, what a great pleasure to meet you at last. I’m Estes Kefauver,” he said softly, emphasizing the first syllable of his last name: “Key-fawv-er.” “And you must be Margaret,” he said, enveloping her hand in his while he leaned closer with a genial wink. “You’d better be careful; you’re not allowed to be too beautiful in this town. You’re going to make a lot of enemies.”

Margaret smiled insincerely. She didn’t mind compliments, or tried not to, but she had already been wary of moving south, where she feared she might be viewed as nothing more than a decoration for Charlie’s arm, even more so than she was in New York City. She had her own career—as a zoologist—and it was irritating to be admired for only her exterior.

“You look so familiar,” Kefauver told Charlie. “And not just because you resemble your father.”


  • Praise for The Hellfire Club

  • "This is a remarkably accomplished effort, especially for a first novel, very much like a Brad Meltzer thriller: energetic and mysterious, with plenty of suspense and a general feeling of evil lurking just barely behind the scenes. Tapper brings an expert's eye to the novel, too, layering it with the kind of detailed political knowledge that only someone with his first-hand experience could bring to the story. An auspicious debut."—Booklist

  • "Fiction is as suspenseful as truth in Jake Tapper's The Hellfire Club"—Vanity Fair, What to Read in May

  • "CNN's Jake Tapper proves he has the page-turning knack in his entertaining debut novel"—Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today

  • "The Hellfire Club is hot summer reading"—Tampa Bay Times

  • "The action comes fast and furious, "House of Cards" on steroids; you'll be turning pages faster than a cable channel updates its chyron. Perfect for an airplane or the beach, The Hellfire Club is a worthy distraction from the real-life news cycle Tapper presides over."—Cynthia Dickison, Minnesota Star Tribune

  • "Insightful... Tapper takes readers back to a Washington remembered for being a time of distrust and potential future conflicts. Key historical figures interact with Tapper's fictional characters, and with his sources at the end of the novel showcasing his research, it almost feels like everything actually happened. It is fiction, however, well-written and worthwhile."—Jeff Ayers, The Associated Press

  • "[The Hellfire Club is] both an engaging and slyly timely foray into Washington politics... incorporat(ing) shades of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as well as elements of contemporary toxic alliances."—Seattle Review of Books

  • "Startlingly good...a reminder that the rarest thing of all in spy novels is a writer willing to give us a character who could exist just as easily in any kind of literary fiction."—Alexander Aciman, Tablet

  • "[The Hellfire Club] has the best qualities of this sort of historical fiction, which include the winking perspective of the present."—Ben Smith, BuzzFeed

  • "An ambitious debut, a meticulously researched work of historical fiction with a byzantine plot punctuated by explosive, Dan Brown-esque twists"—Alexandra Alter, New York Times

  • "a splashy, swampy page-turner [that] plunges readers into the heart of '50s Washington, D.C. The book showcases Tapper's passion for American political history, rich as it is with fascinating period details, as well as his feel for a story well-told."—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Tapper uses his storytelling chops to deftly put you in the moment when Joe McCarthy was waving his infamous paper and the Congress was at peak skullduggery. Hellfire is a potent thriller, replete with well-developed characters that made me think that history does indeed repeat itself."—David Baldacci, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of End Game

  • "The Hellfire Club's first, thrilling scene pulled me into 1950s Washington, D.C., and didn't let go until the last, satisfying page. Tapper's passions for history and politics shine through in this remarkably timely, page-turning debut."—Alafair Burke, author of the New York Times Bestselling The Wife

  • "A fast-paced, thrilling story of corruption and intrigue in Washington, DC, Jake Tapper's The Hellfire Club is terrific: provocative and timely."—Harlan Coben

  • "A fun, fast, gripping thriller full of real-life dirty dealmakers and legendary political power-brokers. No one knows the ins and outs of Washington politics like Jake Tapper."—Anderson Cooper, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Dispatches from the Edge

  • "Leave it to Tapper to find the truth in fiction. This great buzzsaw of a mystery is packed with indecent politicians and secret societies - making the 1950s setting just as relevant today. The scariest part of The Hellfire Club is that it proves Washington - and America - is forever mourning for the past."—Brad Meltzer, The Escape Artist

  • "Here's your chance to get up close and personal with John and Bobby Kennedy, Nixon, Eisenhower, Kefauver, LBJ and Joe McCarthy. Jake Tapper puts you right back in the 50's. At the same time, Tapper has written a superior thriller that I couldn't stop reading. To be completely honest though, Tapper is an irritating bastard. Journalists like him are supposed to be writing dusty non-fiction tomes that help us get to sleep, not thrillers that keep us up half the night. The Hellfire Club is a helluva good read. Now Tapper should return to writing non-fiction."—James Patterson, #1 New York Times Bestselling author

  • "From the moment you enter The Hellfire Club's world of suspense and intrigue and sex and danger, you won't want to leave. The swampy world of 1954 Washington DC feels vividly relevant in our current day politics. A must read!"—Shonda Rhimes

  • Praise for THE OUTPOST:

  • "The Outpost is a mind-boggling, all-too-true story of heroism, hubris, failed strategy, and heartbreaking sacrifice. If you want to understand how the war in Afghanistan went off the rails, you need to read this book."—Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air and Where Men Win Glory

  • "There have been many books written on the subject of America's seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan, but none better than The Outpost."—Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

  • "Brilliant, dedicated reporting by a journalist who goes to ground to get the truth. A sad, real tale about this war, America and the brave warriors who live-and die-at the point of the spear."—Bob Woodward, author of PLAN OF ATTACK, THE COMMANDERS and OBAMA'S WARS

  • "Analyzing the consequences of decisions, large and small, is what makes Tapper's book so important...for those wishing to understand the middle years of the war, they could do no better than to read THE OUTPOST."—Nate Rawlings, Time

  • "Jake Tapper has written perhaps the best book set in Afghanistan to date...He provides a window into the false hopes and visions that enabled this failed experiment, an attempt to create government in spaces that had actively avoided such."—Douglas Ollivant, Foreign Policy

  • "[Jake Tapper] has woven an intricate account about battlefield bravery hamstrung by military bureaucracy...[his] voice is understated, not polemical-just a good reporter letting the facts speak for themselves."—Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

  • "[A] fascinating history...Tapper delivers a blow by blow account of [the soldier's] actions, their personal stories, and the tortured, often incomprehensible command decisions that kept them fighting despite inadequate support and an ally, Pakistan, that actively encouraged the enemy."—Publishers Weekly

  • "One of the most important [books] of the year. Jake Tapper's book is meticulously researched, excellently written and a must-read for everyone who does more than just mouth the phrase, 'I support the troops.' "—Curt Schleier, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • "The power of THE OUTPOSTlies in Tapper's development of the main characters ... He juxtaposes dramatic battles, complete with limbs blown off and eyes dangling from sockets, with poignant scenes of wives and parents first learning of the deaths of their loved ones."—Seth Jones, Washington Post

  • "The seminal work of documentary journalism to emerge out of the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan."—Anand Sankar, Business Standard

  • "THE OUTPOST is valuable because its faithful account of bravery, stupidity, and inertia makes the objective case for admiration and outrage."—Sam Jacobson, Commentary

  • "Mr. Tapper lays bare the poor decision-making that shattered dozens of American lives in the pursuit of an ill-conceived goal."—Sarah Chayes, Wall Street Journal

  • "A heartbreaking chronicle of the rotation of soldiers asked to oversee an underfunded, often thankless mission."—Sam Stein, Huffington Post

  • "As Rudyard Kipling did in the nineteenth century, now, in his magnificent book, Jake Tapper takes us to an untamed part of Afghanistan at war. Journey to THE OUTPOST to understand what our troops go through-and why they go through it."—James Bradley, author of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, FLYBOYS and THE IMPERIAL CRUISE

  • "This is a narrative, not a polemic, and Tapper patiently lays out the history of what happened at Keating in a gripping, forceful style...[T]his unadorned, powerful accountchallenges the purposes and wisdom of America's ongoing military presence [in Afghanistan]...A timely indictment of a thoughtless waste of young American lives."—Kirkus Reviews

  • "[An] incredible account of how this outpost was horribly jeopardized."—Booklist

  • "A heartbreaking, detailed day-to-day account ... Tapper does what all great narrators do: He brings to life the individual men in a way that allows readers to see each soldier in full, with their unique backgrounds, hopes, dreams and families."—Susan Gardner,

  • "The Army uses the term 'BLUF' - bottom line up front. The BLUF on Jake Tapper's new book on Afghanistan, THE OUTPOST, is that you need to read it."—Kurt Schlichter,

On Sale
Apr 24, 2018
Page Count
352 pages

Jake Tapper

About the Author

Jake Tapper is the chief DC anchor and chief Washington correspondent for CNN; he hosts the weekday show The Lead with Jake Tapper and cohosts the Sunday public-affairs show State of the Union. A Dartmouth graduate and Philly native, he lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, daughter, and son.

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