It's the pre-Vietnam era, and America is intervening in the affairs of Pandemi, a small West African nation that has built a nuclear reactor with the help of its neighboring country, Temian. Under false pretenses of renegotiating diplomatic relationships with Pandemi, the U.S. appoints Major Jake Henry as ambassador there. Having spent his boyhood years in Pandemi where his parents were missionaries, Henry is familiar with the people and their customs. But Chuma Fasseke, Henry's boyhood friend who now is President of Pandemi, is strongly opposed to wWestern interference and displays an openness toward Russian and Chinese aid. Early on, Henry realizes that his appointment is a ruse to mask the CIA's plans to destroy the nuclear reactor and to assassinate both Fasseke and the president of Temian. Touted as a novel of international intrigue, Jacob's Ladder fails to elicit excitement or suspense. Williams uses it as a platform to preach contempt for Western aggression and imperialism in Africa and to grapple with the issue of black survival in a white society, but in the process his novel misses its mark as a political thriller. (October 15)
In the mid-1960s, U.S. officials are disturbed when the West African nation of Pandemi fires up the continent's first nuclear breeder reactor with the help of neighboring Temian. CIA station chief Kenneth Klein thus schemes to destroy the reactor and overthrow both countries' presidents. The plot thickens when Jacob Henry, a boyhood friend of Pandemi's president, is sent to Pandemi ostensibly as a military adviser, though even he is unsure of his role. Williams, a prolific and well-regarded black writer, makes clear his understanding of life and attitudes in West Africa and his contempt for U.S. policy in the Third World but unfortunately fails to create the suspense necessary to make this a real ``thriller.'' David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.