Robert Mueller’s bombshell indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking offences and 12 Russian individuals with money laundering and other money laundering offences related to the 2016 US presidential election have dominated headlines this week. Meanwhile, in the book world, it’s hard to escape hearing – or even reading – about our new ally, Vladimir Putin. For decades, the popular fiction genre of espionage has been dominated by contemporary versions of John le Carré or Wodehouse with his tame British spy, G.K. Chesterton’s Irish spy Liam Stack, creeping up on the real Russian ones in the same way Wile E. Coyote followed the Road Runner into oblivion. So it’s not surprising that in In Another Trump Book, written in 2006 by Jeffrey Toobin, there’s a chapter on how to write about Russia that can seem a little strange.
Trump in Moscow during the visit of Vladimir Putin.
But Toobin’s personal history as a journalist — as the former assistant district attorney in New York City — and as an HBO Supreme Court anchor makes him a perfectly qualified writer. And another novel premise ties him in very close with the present day news: he mentions the famous Freebird dance scene in Saturday Night Fever, referring to Trump’s favourite dance move in Russia – “the Russian wolf whistle.” His assessment of what it’s like for a journalist to cover Russia, when many have been killed in the line of duty: “Even for a good reporter, I feared that the body count was so high that the Russian Putinism contained a poisonous snake part.”