A Timely New Novel Explores Illiberalism in the Newsroom

Though I know it’s coincidental, I imagine Eric Dezenhall’s publisher is delighted that his tightly plotted revenge thriller, False Light, is being published so soon after the “resignation” of another journalist from the New York Times. (Though, to be honest, it doesn’t exactly take a miracle to time a novel’s release around the departure of a high-profile reporter or editor from a mainstream outlet, since they happen with such metronomic regularity these days). False Light is tonic for anyone concerned about clickbait sensationalism and increasing illiberalism in newsrooms. 

False Light’s protagonist, Sanford “Fuse” Petty, is not built to flourish in the modern journalistic ecosystem. He’s a fiftysomething investigative reporter, technophobic and old school. Though he’s decidedly left-leaning, he’s not about to stop chasing a lead just because the villain turns out to be on “his side.” One such story has gotten him crosswise with his employer, the Capital Incursion, and as the novel opens, he has begun a leave of absence from his job, pending a disciplinary investigation.

Just as Fuse is trying to figure out what to do with his unexpected windfall of time, he’s approached by his oldest friend, Kurt Rossiter. Kurt wants Fuse’s advice about a situation with his daughter, Samantha, who says she was sexually assaulted by her boss, the prominent journalist, Pacho Craig.

Assault victims usually have to choose between reporting an incident or remaining silent, but after laying out the options, and candidly describing the downsides of going public—the inevitable attacks on Samantha’s reputation, and the iffy chances of successful prosecution—Fuse offers a third option: revenge.  

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