Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)
The Rules of the Game by Leonard Downie, Jr.
Add The Rules of the Game to bookshelf
Add to Bookshelf

The Rules of the Game

Best Seller
The Rules of the Game by Leonard Downie, Jr.
Jan 13, 2009 | ISBN 9780307271228

Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Jan 13, 2009 | ISBN 9780307271228

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Product Details


“Len Downie has written a truly great novel about five of the pillars of Washington life–secrets, trust, money, sex, and moral choice. Like all wonderful fiction, it gets to the very core of the world and personalities it describes. This is a deadly serious and elegantly told story about journalism, influence peddling, clandestine sources, and the presidency.”
-Bob Woodward

The Rules of the Game is a powerful and dazzling story of conspiracy, murder and political corruption at the highest levels of government. As editor of the Washington Post, Len Downie learned all about the corrupting power of money when mixed with politics and war and he has used that knowledge to help shape a stunning novel.”
-Senator William S. Cohen

“From the first page, Len Downie’s inside knowledge of the intricate relationship between power and the press in Washington jumps out of the novel. It’s all here: greed, ambition, a national security breach, ego, and even romance. The founding fathers never quite imagined a capital city like this one.”
-Judy Woodruff, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer

“Len Downie serves up the entrails of our capital city’s underbelly like a gleeful mortician.”
-John Darnton, author of Black and White and Dead All Over

"Nobody understands the intersection of politics and journalism better than Len Downie–a great newspaper editor.  Now, in this novel, he reminds us of what makes a great story–and how to tell it.  The Rules of the Game–and its characters–couldn’t be more timely or relevant." 
-Carl Bernstein

“[Leonard Downie Jr.] has fashioned The Rules of the Game with straightforward, uncluttered craftsmanship . . . This is a rollicking good story with extraordinarily well-paced action that clings together right to the end . . . A booming anthem to newspapering.”
-Michael Pakenham, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Savvy . . . The Rules of the Game is an engrossing read whose main value is its cunning take on the twisted gamesmanship that underlies Washington politics . . . [and] a persuasive piece of storytelling. Given the author’s pedigree, it is hardly surprising that the book has a strong whiff of authenticity . . . We’re watching a real pro at work.”
Washington Post Book World

“Un-put-downable . . . Downie vividly demonstrates the stakes these people are paying for, both for themselves and for their country . . . The Rules of the Game is a compelling read, and also a primer in How Things Work in Washington.”
-Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times

“Engaging . . . It’s clear [Downie] has deep empathy for how stressful and isolating the life of an investigative reporter can be . . . Downie knows what game he’s in.”
-Mark Athitakis, Washington City Paper

“[Downie] builds his story . . . with a wealth of supporting details and a solid sense of veracity, whether he’s describing how government wheels are greased or how a big-city newsroom operates . . . Downie has written an entertaining first novel with a welcome, skeptical view of Washington gamesmanship.”
-Larry Aydlette, Palm Beach Post

“This taut, brisk-paced tale of Washington chicanery and perfidy . . . is far more than its real-life parallels. The characters are all fascinating mixes of ego, ambition, and motive, and the two female leads, in particular, are skillfully etched portraits . . . The Rules of the Game is a tense and thrilling first novel.”
-Starred review, Booklist

“The plot goes way deeper than the eerie similarities between Downie’s fiction and the political developments that only a crystal ball could have predicted . . . there’s . . . a lot that rings true about how investigative reporters work, how newspapers work, how lobbyists work, and how politics work . . . the layers of revelation should captivate readers.”

“Mr. Downie is an expert Washington hand . . . If his political characters tend to speechify just a bit too prettily, speaking in theses and talking points, just think what pleasure it must be for a long-time Washington journalist to finally put decent words into politicians’ mouths.”
-The Economist

“Nicely executed . . . Downie exposes corruption at the highest levels and shows how national security trumps pretty much everything, including justice, in an entertaining . . . tale of murder, cover-ups, and personal courage.”
-Publishers Weekly

Author Q&A

You’ve written several works of nonfiction, but this is your first novel. What prompted you to turn to fiction?

I always wanted to write fiction about how journalists and politicians are affected by each other and power in Washington. Before I collaborated with Bob Kaiser on The News About the News, I had an idea for a novel that I filed away until our book was finished. A couple of years later, in 2004, I took it out of the file and still liked it. Believe it or not, the idea was that an older U. S. senator is nominated for president and, on the eve of his party’s national convention, shocks everyone by selecting an inexperienced young woman senator, who is a media darling, to be his running mate. And she eventually becomes president. That became the backdrop for the story that evolved about a young woman investigative reporter challenging the rules of the game—and that president—in Washington. One thing led to another as the characters took over the story and the intrigue built.

How did you come to the story of THE RULES OF THE GAME?

The elements of the story grew out of my own decades of experiences as an investigative reporter and editor in Washington, my fascination with the complex and often ambiguous relationships among journalists, politicians, consultants and lobbyists, and the ways in which they all often broke the rules with and without consequences.

This book is a fantastic tale of political intrigueany inspiration from real life that you’re willing or able to share?

Although the story is entirely fiction, much of what happens, and where, is drawn from real life: confrontations over politics, corruption and national security among journalists, their sources and the targets of their reporting in actual locations all around Washington and across the country, including inside the CIA, the Capitol and the White House. I know this is the way Washington really works because I’ve lived it.

Speaking of something being true to life, the plot of THE RULES OF THE GAME shares some eerie similarities with our last election (as you illuminated in the first question). Were you surprised by these similarities as Campaign 2008 unfolded?

I was surprised and a bit spooked. That was only one fictional element of the novel that became fact in one form or another in real life before I finished writing, but readers will have to discover the others for themselves. They will find out how far inside the real Washington THE RULES OF THE GAME takes them.

What challenges did writing fiction present after a lifetime of reporting news and writing nonfiction books?

Taking literary license with everything I’ve experienced and reported on in Washington took some getting used to, but I found that the same kind of digging that produces good journalism also helps create a good story. Then, because it was fiction, I was able add more intrigue, suspense and danger—what really could happen, even if it hadn’t yet

Did you in any way feel you were able to tell more "truth" through the novelin terms of how Washington works, what really goes on behind closed doors, how closely lobbyists and politicians workthan you could ever realistically reveal in nonfiction?

I was able to do it much more vividly in fiction and to take readers further behind those closed doors than a journalist would normally be able to go.

This may be like asking you to pick a favorite child, but do you have a most memorable story you can share from your decades at the Washington Post?

Many, many stories. The high-wire tension of the Watergate coverage. A memorable confrontational interview with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the climax of the Falklands war between Britain and Argentina. Conflicts with Bill and Hillary Clinton over coverage of the Whitewater-Lewinsky investigations. High stakes discussions with top officials in several administrations over difficult decisions about publishing stories affecting national security. Directing our coverage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

You recently accepted the post of the Weil Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, which you’ll begin in 2010. What will you tell your students there about the future of journalism?

The news media as we’ve known them are being completely transformed in the digital age in ways that critically threaten their business models but also offer exciting new multi-media ways to report news. What is most important to me is that journalism and newsrooms that hold the powerful accountable survive and prosper. And I hope those students will help to make that happen.

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Back to Top