The Right Kind of Spy

In these two recent spy thrillers, William F. Buckley's CIA-trained alter ego makes his sixth and seventh appearances in a decade to play a winning hand in the high-stakes intrigue surrounding crucial moments in the Cold War. On a secret mission to Cuba (Project Alligator) aimed at exploring with Che Guevara possibilities for easing tensions between the two countries, Blackford Oakes discovers Fidel's newest presents from Moscow, the infamous Cuban missiles. High Jinx returns to the 1950's as Oakes's quest for the source of a murderous intelligence leak leads to English trailers of the Philby variety and, finally, to Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's chief of secret police, plotting to become the next master of the Kremlin. Written with style and zest, never lacking in action and suspense, both books are quality examples of the spy adventure's capacity to offer intelligent entertainment.

That Oakes is the author's fictional projection constitutes a minor in-joke in these books. Like Buckley, the CIA man is a Yale graduate with some education in the English public school system. His ripostes to the Guevara's Marxist verbal thrusts do credit to the editor of National Review. In High Jinx, Buckley even makes President Eisenhower's National Security Adviser praise McCarthy and His Enemies, further teasing readers with the link between author and character. Such authorial winking...

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