Allen Drury's 1959 novel "Advise and Consent" begins with the US President announcing Robert Leffingwell as his candidate for Secretary of State. The candidacy requires the approval of the US Senate. This consent seems likely given that Leffingwell enjoys strong support from the Press and the American people.

South Carolina Senator Seab Cooley vigorously opposes the nomination, but one can easily discount his arguments due to his longstanding personal grievance against Leffingwell.

The hearings become dramatic when a former student accuses Leffingwell of active involvement in a Communist organization years earlier. The candidate denies the accusation. Things turn nasty as each side resorts to blackmail to achieve their ends.

Drury does an excellent job building the suspense in this political drama. When we think one side has the edge, the opposition surprises us with an unethical move that threatens to affect the outcome. Those who practice these questionable strategies rationalize their actions. They do not care that they are destroying lives - both metaphorically and literally - because they believe that the end goal justifies any actions.

Drury builds a cast of compelling characters who battle with one another. Most are not evil, but all are ambitious, and the collateral damage caused by their actions is often devastating. The reader identifies in some way with almost all of them. The story's heroes are heroic because they resist this temptation toward demagoguery that has seduced their colleagues.

Members of the Press are less well-defined. The author never identifies them by name but only by their paper, network, or service. They serve to provide commentary on public opinion toward the nominee.

The controversy of "A+C" revolves around Leffingwell's past association with Communist - a threat that loomed large in the public's consciousness and Congress's agenda during the Cold War. Today, we tend to dismiss this threat - primarily due to the overzealous activities of discredited Senator Joseph McCarthy. However, we still deal with candidates who lie under oath and politicians willing to ruin their opponents to achieve their goals. These current issues make this novel relevant today. That might be why "Advise and Consent" was revived after being out of print for over a decade.

Drury, a former UPI reporter who covered the Senate, was a staunch anti-Communist. The fact that he grossly overestimated the threat posed by American Communists should not diminish the value of this novel. It effectively and engagingly shows the dark side of politics.