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Thomas F. Monteleone’s The Resurrectionist concerns a Republican U.S. senator who is media savvy, handsome, in line for the presidency—and has a knack for raising the dead (if only Bob Dole could be so lucky). Yet in spite of this chiller’s morbid theme, it’s mostly about rebirth, life, and the consequences of having the ultimate power. “I don’t think this is a horror story,” says Monteleone. “It’s primarily a novel of character that addresses some of the things The X-Files talks about.”

Monteleone, who lives in Brooklandville, Md., is a practiced hand at fright writing. His The Blood of the Lamb received a Bram Stoker Award and was a 1992 New York Times Notable Book. In The Resurrectionist, he avoids genre conventions by blending stylized political suspense and sly social commentary; his own views (“government is not a nice guy”) come through in the novel’s scary Big Brother political system. Not every aspect of The Resurrectionist is so laden with meaning, however. Of the eerie match between his first name and his protagonist’s, Monteleone just laughs. “Listen, this is my 20th book,” he says. “I used the name just for the hell of it. Trust me, I have no political aspirations whatsoever.” Instead, he’ll keep wracking his brain—which he creepily refers to as “the gray room”—for unique plot twists. His next book, a novel about the Holocaust titled Night of Broken Souls, will show up on shelves this fall.— Sean Daly