POLITICS is not a subject for the dinner table, my grandmother once told me.

And it seems, with the present state of Australian politics, it isn't a subject worthy of the back of the toilet door.

But a new novel by two of Australia's most senior political journalists - Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann - steps behind the toilet door, lifts the lid and exposes what lies beneath.

It may be a work of fiction, but The Marmalade Files seems to be a direct reflection of what is, and has long been, the reality of life in the corridors of power.

The pair has about 40 years of shared experience reporting from Parliament House, and it all comes together in the 311-page novel.

While the book has been walking off the shelves in the capital, Mr Uhlmann said he hoped it had wider appeal to political junkies around the country.

"I think if you are even vaguely familiar with the current political climate, and the characters we see every day on our television screens, then you would probably see some similarities between the characters in the book and reality," Mr Uhlmann said.

"We hope that the book would give readers a better feel for the whole political process.

"In the book, as in reality, there are a lot of big ambitions in politics, a lot of flawed characters.

"But after more than 20 years covering politics in Canberra, I think the majority of people are in it to help improve society - there's still a lot of honest, decent people."

Some of the characters may sound familiar - a foreign minister hell-bent on revenge after her (yes, her) party knifes her; a transvestite intelligence expert; and a New South Wales Labor right powerbroker with a long list of political assassinations under his belt.

Mr Uhlmann said he and Mr Lewis had always wanted to run close to the wire with the characters.

"But there is a long legal disclaimer at the start of the book outlining that these characters are certainly not real people," he said.

Part easy-reading political thriller, part social commentary, the book looks at Australia's place on the world stage and its relationships with the United States and China, Mr Uhlmann said.

"It's certainly no War and Peace," he said.

"But we wanted to deal with some of the issues we are now facing as a nation, so those big international issues, as well as the domestic political realities of a minority government and the changing landscape of the media are all part of it."



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