From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR SPYTIME
"The ultimate in spy novels--with real characters and studied speculation on certain events by Buckley, who met many of the key players--this is a tense, heroic tale of a real Cold War legend."--The New York Daily News
"Spytime is a quiet-time read for those who like their espionage erudite and their intelligence intelligent."--USA Today
PRAISE FOR William F. Buckley Jr.'s Blackford Oakes novels:
"Mr. Buckley's prose surpasses its usual self in wit and elegance. The Oakes-Guevara debates are lively, and through them Guevara develops into a surprisingly rich and at times sympathetic character."--The New York Times
"Once again, Buckley writes an intriguing entertainment; serious political issues of the Cold War fuel the adventure, yet that earnestness is leavened with high good humor."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"The suspense is keen and complicated."--The Wall Street Journal
"It's a tribute to Buckley's storytelling abilities that our interest never flags even though history has told us how the story will end."--Newsday
This is the tenth year I've shared my summer reading with our readers. My reading, of course, goes on all year, but it is somehow different in summer. Knowing it will result in a column means the going is a bit slower; I take more time to appreciate and understand the author's intentions, skills and achievements--or lack thereof. Winter reading, for me, is what in school we used to call "pleasure reading." Here then are reviews of some of the books I read during this summer of 2002.
The first covers a hitherto-neglected aspect of President Ronald Reagan's career. It is Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism, by Peter Schweizer (Doubleday, $26, available Oct. 15). Schweizer is an old friend and is one of the foremost historians of the Reagan era. He begins his work, appropriately, with negative comments about Reagan by such intellectual giants as Clark Clifford. Schweizer traces in great detail Reagan's struggle against the communist infiltration and domination of Hollywood in the 1940s, as well as its effect on Reagan's presidency in the 1980s.
The monumental achievement of Reagan's lonely, lifelong struggle against communism was his final victory in the Cold War. And make no mistake, it was Reagan's victory. Schweizer's summation tells all: "Those virtues that Reagan so admired--courage and character--are what the nearly half-century battle against communism required most of him. Sometimes his strong views brought physical threats against his life and family. More often, they would prompt ridicule or denunciation of him as a dangerous ignoramus. In either case, Reagan unflinchingly pressed on, opposed by old friends,cabinet officers, and sometimes even members of his own family."
As Ronald Reagan said: "We must be guided not by fear, but by courage and moral clarity." This is precisely what we most need today. We are fortunate to have in President Bush a leader who knows and follows the same beck-oning light.
Another Cold War warrior, William F. Buckley Jr., has once again turned his exceptional, indeed Renaissance-like, skills to writing a novel about a pivotal historic event. Nuremberg: The Reckoning (Harcourt, $25) brings to life the complex tale of the victorious Allies' attempts to bring to justice the surviving perpetrators of the Nazi horror. Through his great skills of storytelling and character development, Buckley blends fictional characters and actual his-tory and makes the reader feel he is a participant.
Buckley has used this device before in his books on Joseph McCarthy; James Angleton, the CIA operative; and, oddly enough, Elvis Presley. Nuremberg is Buckley's 15th novel and is one of his best. It is so masterfully written that you are compelled to go back to some of the original source material to verify that such things really hap-pened.
Lady Margaret Thatcher's two-volume memoir was a huge bestseller in Europe and here. In it she wrote of her constant struggle against the conventional wisdom, her determination to change the world and her ultimate successes. She is one of the few people whose strong presence on the stage of history has changed and improved that history. Along with President Reagan, and perhaps one or two others, Lady Thatcher should be given credit for bringing the thrall of communism to an end and for restoring capitalism, freedom and democracy.
Margaret Thatcher's newest book, Statecraft (HarperCollins, $34.95), is about the future, and should be read for what it is: the wise counsel of a supremely successful stateswoman and Britain's greatest peacetime leader. Statecraft relays how the West won the Cold War and "created the basis for today's freedom and prosperity." To give permanency to these achievements, we must remain "vigilant and strong," and Lady Thatcher details how this can and must be done. Her ideas are rightly and persuasively argued--and lead the reader to the famous Thatcher conclusion: "There is no alternative." Those who object to such polemicism should recall how often Margaret Thatcher was right and be grateful for her unambiguous and unnuanced conclusions and advice. Hers is the kind of guidance we urgently need. And the more it is followed, the better off we will all be.
Double Lives: Stories of Extraordinary Achievement, by David Heenan (Davies-Black Publishing, $24.95), tells the story of ten remarkable people who, not satisfied with their own extraordinary "day jobs," carved out second vocations equally, if not more, fulfilling. Winston Churchill is Heenan's prime example. In addition to being a statesman, Churchill was an author, painter and orator--and excelled at all. Theodore Roosevelt was likewise a great statesman, but he was also a historian and scientist. Another example: pediatrician and poet Dr. William Carlos Wil-liams.
Heenan describes the common characteristics of these doubly (and sometimes triply) endowed people as appar-ently boundless energy, firm independence and a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. He himself exemplifies the multifaceted qualities he has found in his subjects: He is a university teacher, writer and trustee of the fabulous James Campbell Estate in Hawaii. Double Lives may make some readers envious, but it will stimulate others to do more every day.
This fourteenth novel by the ceaselessly busy Buckley is far better than last summer's trivial Elvis in the Morning. Nuremberg is about a twenty-year-old American lieutenant named Sebastian Reinhard, who is serving as a translator at the Nuremberg trials. Sebastian fled Germany with his American mother as World War II began. His father, a German engineer, was forced to stay behind for reasons Sebastian only gradually discovers. Many stories featuring Nazis are lurid fantasies or overly intricate conspiracies, but this narrative is refreshingly sober, depicting a likable hero whose greatest exploit to date is working one summer as a guide at the Grand Canyon. Like his fellow officers, Sebastian sees the importance of his work, but he's gradually worn down by the combined horror and tedium of the trials. There is a modesty and reality about this life that makes it the ideal yardstick against which to measure the grotesquely enlarged evil of Hitler's Reich.
Within the flexible boundaries of a novel that has substance, style, and a firm grip on the plot, Buckley has fashioned a story of action against a real historical background the trials at Nuremberg. Sebastian Reinhard, a German-born American, becomes an interpreter at the War Crimes Tribunal and an interrogator of one of the Nazi Brigadef hrers. In this latter capacity, he learns disturbing truths about his national origin and about his father, an MIT-educated civil engineer who superintended the construction of an extermination camp. Buckley achieves a good working compromise between actual events and people (U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, defendants Hermann G ring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Albert Speer, etc.) and the many fictional characters who weave in and out of his narrative. Before the powerful ending, every thread has been pulled remorselessly tight. This is National Review founder Buckley's 14th novel, and it's one of his best. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/02.] A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The 15th novel by the conservative intellectual godfather and gadfly is a brainy thriller cut from the same cloth as Spytime (2000): fast-moving and based on historical events only all too real. Civil engineer Axel Reinhart prepares to leave Hamburg with his wife Annabelle and 13-year-old son, Sebastian, for a stay in America. The Gestapo refuse Axel permission to leave Germany, and the narrator thereafter shifts to his family's years in America, with briefly juxtaposed glimpses of both Axel's unwilling involvement in Nazi projects and flashbacks to the histories of his own and (especially) his wife's families, in which we learn what Sebastian himself does not yet know: that he is of part-Jewish ancestry. The bulk of the story records Sebastian's growth to young manhood; his OCS training, and selection to work as a translator at the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg in the years 1945-46; and his eventual disillusionment as he learns what happened to the father he never saw again after leaving his homeland. Buckley creates vivid cameo portraits of such crucially involved historical figures as Hermann Goering and American Justice Robert Jackson, and matches them with in-depth characterizations of stoical, thoughtful Sebastian and of the steely, infuriatingly self-possessed concentration camp commandant (named "Amadeus"!) to whom he's "assigned." An enormous amount of information is packed into the story, and Buckley doesn't altogether solve the problem of mingling exposition with drama, especially in the early going. But the dialogue (always one of this author's strong points) is crisp and revelatory, and the dramatic momentum of the final hundred pages-in which the tribunalreaches verdicts and Sebastian finds in himself the capacity to rethink the imperatives of right and wrong-has a tumbling intensity reminiscent of Richard Condon's sardonic fictions. Literate, absorbing, and thought-provoking. Buckley at his best. Author tour
Read an Excerpt
Hamburg, August 30, 1939
His eyes lingered longer than usual on the headlines as he walked by the corner newsstand, the summer leaves of the overhanging oak trees brushing down over the canvas awning that protected the papers and magazines and cigarettes of the little kiosk from summer rains. Today, no headline especially arrested his attention. There was nothing beyond the run of diplomatic crises he was now numb to-England denounces German threats to Poland...Poland asserts its independence...Great Britain and France pledge aid to Poland if attacked...Moscow signs nonaggression pact with Berlin. Nothing new; nothing brand new-this last, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact was already a week old. Axel tried to close it all out of his mind.
Past the stand, turning right on Abelstrasse, Axel Reinhard was only three blocks from his apartment. He gripped hard the handle of his briefcase and looked fleetingly at his watch.
Back at the office there had been a bon voyage party. Franz Heidl, the senior partner of the engineering firm, had invited a half-dozen colleagues of Heidl & Sons, and also Debra-always-the office manager, to the tenth floor partners' meeting room. They had come to the boardroom at 1900, as bidden ("Please to be prompt!") to have a brandy and wish Axel a happy holiday in America (As you know, the invitation read, Axel is taking a month's leave to accompany Annabelle and their son Sebastian to New York. Young Sebastian will be going to school in America.).
"Heinrich and Fritz Hassler-" Herr Heidl called for silence, tapping lightly on the cognac bottle with the back of his fountain pen. "-phoned in their regrets. I don't need to tell you, Axel, about the press of work at Heidl & Sons. Fritz sends his compliments and Debra, who couldn't be with us, sends her..." he raised his brandy glass and paused for emphasis, "her love!" There was a murmur of appreciation (Debra, Hassler's secretary, was seventy years old; Axel was not yet thirty-six). "Be sure and tell that to Annabelle when you get home tonight. She may refuse to sail with you!"
Axel, looking down on his short, bald boss, accepted the toast with a smile and a little bow of his head, his abundant dark hair insufficiently tended. "I'm surprised Debra didn't send her love to my son. After all, Sebastian is almost fourteen."
"Is he also a lady-killer?" Heidl's leer was theatrically contrived, and the company laughed.
"What school in America are you sending him to?" Heinz Jutzeler, the youngest of the engineers in the room, wanted to know. Jutzeler had spent three years in Washington when his father served as cultural attaché for Chancellor Hindenburg, in the last days of the Weimar Republic. Though he had returned to Hamburg at age thirteen, Jutzeler fancied himself something of an expert on America.
"He will go to school in Phoenix. Phoenix-" Axel assumed a professorial air and began with a word or two in an exaggerated British accent "-iss the capital of Ahr-isohn-a." He ended the imitation and, in his native, idiomatic German, told his colleagues and well-wishers (more properly, he reminded them: Like almost every German in the professional class, the engineers at Heidl & Sons were well-grounded in geography and history) that the state of Arizona had been incorporated into the United States in 1912, that Phoenix was the state's capital, that to the south of it lay Mexico, to the east, New Mexico, to the west, California.
"Why did you and Annabelle choose Arizona?"
"My mother-in-law-my generous mother-in-law-has property there and will superintend Sebastian's education after Annabelle comes back here to us."
The silence was considered, though nobody gave voice to the reason for it. Why would a thirteen-year-old with a U.S. passport hurry to return to Hamburg, Germany, in 1939?
Jutzeler broke the silence, harking back to the subject of Arizona. He liked to frame his remarks in the practical coin of his trade. "For the benefit of my colleagues, Phoenix, Arizona, would be, traveling west from New York, about the same distance as Moscow, traveling east, is from us here in Hamburg. Now that Herr von Ribbentrop has made a pact with Comrade Stalin, we must all expect, one day, to visit, as tourists, the Communist land we were taught so diligently to scorn-"
"Heinz!" Axel's face contorted with derisive pain. "No no no! Moscow is much closer. From here to Moscow by train-two days, one night. To Phoenix from New York, three days, two nights."
"You may be right. Just my impression..."
"You get back when, Axel?" Germaine, the heavyset archivist, her eyeglasses hanging below her neck, wanted to know.
"In one month," Axel said. "Don't let them muck up the Rohrplatz Tower while I'm gone." There was laughter. Herr Heidl beamed with pride, taking a folder from a shelf alongside and opening it to exhibit an artist's sketch of the Rohrplatz Center in Hamburg's industrial zone, scheduled for completion in three months; perhaps, with the hectic construction schedule in Germany, in time for Christmas.
A quarter of an hour later, after downing a second brandy, Herr Heidl said that he couldn't speak for everyone in the room but he, as senior partner in Heidl & Sons, had more to do, before finally going home, than merely drink brandy with his colleagues. "We all know that engineers are not exactly busy in America, never mind the vigorous economic policies of Mr. Roosevelt's New Deal," he jibed. "But unemployment certainly isn't a problem in the Third Reich. Lieber Axel, may God be with you."
Axel shook Herr Heidl's hand, and then the hands of the others, who had got the signal that the party was over. He kissed Germaine lightly on her ample forehead and returned to his office at the other end of the floor to pick up his meticulously packed briefcase. A raincoat over one arm, he stepped into the freshly painted hallway and rang for the elevator. At the desk in the entrance hall he initialed the register and wrote down the hour. The one-legged clerk nodded at him. "Heil Hitler."
"Heil Hitler," Axel responded.
Copyright © 2002 by William F. Buckley Jr.
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