Saturday, July 18, 2009

Paul Christopher books by Charles McCarry

Several weeks ago here a post on summer reading discussed crime books, a genre that's not for everybody but one that is a entertaining and occasionally enlightening fallback here. As an aside at the end of the post, Charles McCarry was mentioned as a recommended writer of political intrigue genre novels. McCarry had until recently been falling out of print but is having a resurgence now based on a publisher's new commitment to his books and his two revivals of the Paul Chrisopher series in the last few years.

Taking my own advice I have since read "The Last Supper" --- published in 1983 and more or less the centerpiece, or epic, of the Paul Christopher series, and compelling in many ways --- "Christopher's Ghosts" --- published in 2007 and interesting, but not up to his McCarry's earlier work --- and "Tears of Autumn" --- from 1974 and a fascinating fictional investigation into who was behind the assassination of President Kennedy.

Given McCarry's experience in the CIA, his knowledge of politics and history, and his credibility in both fiction and non-fiction, "Tears of Autumn" is a hypothesis that he clearly thought was somewhere near the target of fact. The specificity of the tale as it develops is either a result of great imagination or informed intuition, or more than that?

As an aside, again, to close, it now seems that I will pull out "Legacy of Ashes, the History of the CIA" by New York Times reporter Tim Weiner. This book was published in 2007 and, despite being exhaustively researched and written with talent, it was put on the bookshelf after being halfway through. The problem was his profound bias against everything that the CIA had done, which led to a counter-reaction on my part. It started early in the book with Weiner's description of the Marshall Plan, and his not disguised disdain for the discovered fact that some Marshall Plan funds were funneled to pro-democracy political parties in post-WWII Europe. Remember the history. There were openly far left political groups in many European countries outside of England, some even openly Bolshevick and Stalinist, and they could be supported by funds from the newly established Soviet Union. With a huge amount of new territory to exploit, rape, and pillage and little or no concern about the sustenance of his own people, Stalin the tyrant could access funds and people to support European communists at that time despite the huge losses to and significant destruction of Russia during the war. That the CIA and the U.S. government found a way to counteract his influence seemed laudable to me. Thank goodness, and who cares if the Marshall Plan wasn't all aid for basic supplies and redevelopment.

This observation led to a jaundiced view of the book that could not be shaken, so the book was shelved. Now it occurs that McCarry's novels could be a useful supplement to what Weiner writes. The McCarry books do not glorify the CIA other than to make it seem interesting, which is what all those generations of Yale graduates always thought. It all seems rather amoral and inefficient, with both good people and incompents taking part. With that thought digested, now it's time to go back to the Kennedy assassination period and see if any of Weiner's discoveries even indirectly point in the direction of McCarry's "Tears of Autumn" fiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

such terrific books.

8:58 PM  

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