Many see the meeting between literature and politics as fraught. In this engagement with novels and their authors, Christopher Hitchens takes inspiration from Shelley's description of the poet as an "unacknowledged legislator" and shows, that while the encounter between writers and those in power is not always smooth, it generally embodies a dialectic that is worth pursuit. Christopher Hitchens provides evidence that his own sallies as a political journalist are nourished by a close engagement with a broad sweep of novelists. Here, Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal's encounters with American revolution are scrutinised in interview; George Orwell's role as a fulcrum between left and right is carefully weighed-up; an appraisal of the fatwah issued against Salman Rushdie becomes a meditation on the West's misunderstood encounter with Islam; and Ernest Hemmingway is defended against the vagaries of fashion, as Hitchens turns an illuminating eye to lines from Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse, through Philip Larkin and Patrick O'Brien, to Walter Mosley, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag.