America in 1953 seems hell-bent on squandering the flood tide of international goodwill earned in WWII. Senator Joe McCarthy is on a red-hunting rampage in Washington, and the fledgling CIA under Allen Dulles is starting to dabble in nation-building.
Into this moment of history wander Nick Carraway and Jake Barnes, refugees from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. They begin a correspondence that leads to a close friendship, and widens to include a bizarre cast of characters. From the classic fiction of the period come Larry Darrell (The Razor's Edge), Alden Pyle (The Quiet American), Lady Brett Ashley and Robert Cohn (The Sun Also Rises), and from real life, Roy Cohn (Robert's nephew) and his pal Davey Schine, Roy's boss Joe McCarthy, the Dulles brothers,
the Weavers, French intellectuals Sartre and De Beauvoir, Iranian premier Dr.
Mohammed Mossadegh, novelist Jackie Susann, music moguls Jerry Wexler and Ahmed Ertegun, and sex-change pioneer Christine Jorgensen. Jake discovers a CIA plot to cause a coup in France, and Nick and Jake must do their best to save their country from itself while affairs of the heart change both of their lives and teach them lessons about life and love. Nick & Jake finds the uproarious comic potential in a chilling period of American history that has alarming echoes in our own.
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About the Author
Jonathan Richards is an author,
journalist, actor, and cartoonist. His movie reviews appear weekly in the Santa Fe New Mexican and online. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society. His political cartoons are seen regularly in the Huffington Post. He illustrated Alan Arkin’s children’s book Cosmo.
He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife, Claudia Jessup, who is a successful novelist under the name Meredith Rich.
Tad Richards is the author of seventeen novels and various books of nonfiction and poetry. He has written plays, screenplays and songs (most recently “Banks of the Hudson,”
on an album by singer/Congressman John Hall).
Read an Excerpt
Nick & Jake
An Epistolary Novel
By Jonathan Richards, Tad Richards
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 2012 Tad Richards and Jonathan Richards
All rights reserved.
It was a year unlike any other. On January 20, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in as President of the United States in a ceremony broadcast to 21 million black-and-white television sets. The hunt for Reds was in full swing, spearheaded by Joe McCarthy in the U.S. Senate. On Broadway, Arthur Miller attacked the communist witch hunts with The Crucible; and in the movies, Elia Kazan was making On the Waterfront in defense of naming names. Television newsman Edward R. Murrow began work on an exposé of the tactics of Senator McCarthy.
In June, convicted atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair, leaving two orphaned boys. (A half-century later, Soviet documents confirmed Ethel's innocence.) The prosecution had been spearheaded by an ambitious young lawyer named Roy Cohn, who was now Chief Counsel for Senator McCarthy's committee. Cohn and his friend G. David Schine left on a book-banning junket through American government libraries in Europe, to the embarrassment of the American diplomatic corps, and the great entertainment of the European press. When Schine was drafted later that year, Cohn's threats to retaliate by exposing the Army as riddled with Reds eventually led to McCarthy's condemnation by the Senate.
Around the world there was turmoil. America was bogged down in an undeclared war in Korea. In Vietnam, France (with quiet American help) struggled to hold onto the vestiges of its Indochina empire, while back in Paris, governments spun in and out of power through a revolving door. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died. America announced it had the H-bomb; a few months later, so did the USSR, and the dance of terror between the two superpowers was joined.
Two of Eisenhower's chief advisers made anti-Communism their personal crusade. John Foster Dulles was named Secretary of State, while across town, his brother Allen was sworn in as the first civilian director of the fledgling Central Intelligence Agency. While Foster articulated the Domino Theory, Allen's CIA would undertake spying on Americans, mind-control experiments, assassinations, and coups. Among its accomplishments was the subsidizing of cultural organizations, including the creation of the international leftist journal Encounter, edited by a former City College Trotskyite named Irving Kristol (later a founder of neoconservatism) and British poet Stephen Spender. More significant, the CIA instituted a policy of nation-building, orchestrating the overthrow of the democratically elected governments of reformers Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. Guatemalans got a repressive military junta, and Iranians saw the restoration of the U.S.-friendly Shah to the Peacock Throne.
It was a year for scientific miracles. Dr. Jonas Salk created a vaccine against polio. Drs. Francis Crick and James Watson described the structure of DNA as a double helix, and in Denmark, Dr. Christian Hamburger performed the world's first sex change operation on a young American G.I. named George Jorgensen.
This collection of letters from that eventful year casts a wide net over characters and events both fact and fiction. At the center of the action are a couple of characters who made their way from the Twenties and meet here for the first time: Nicholas Carraway, Republican functionary and one-time novelist, and Jacob Barnes, expatriate newsman. These gentlemen were previously thought to be the creations of a couple of novelists named F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, but it is revealed here for the first time that Nick and Jake are real historical figures. Fitzgerald and Hemingway never existed. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.
History has been tweaked and bent to suit our purposes, but a decent respect to the opinions of mankind has kept us close to the line of essential historical truths. Some of the most beloved works of 20th-century American literature have been cheerfully pillaged. Names have not been changed, and the innocent will have to shift for themselves.CHAPTER 2
CHARACTER LEGEND (in order of appearance)
Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby): In his youth he wrote a novel; now he's a patriotic American who wants only to serve his country ... if his country still has a place for him.
Jake Barnes (The Sun Also Rises): Expatriate, legendary journalist, he's covered Europe for three decades. Once he thought of writing a novel, but never got beyond telling his story late at night to a sympathetic bartender.
George/Christine Jorgensen (sex-change pioneer): She's looked at life from both sides now, and she knows secrets of the heart ... and secrets that can spell trouble.
Allen Dulles (CIA director): As the first director of the fledgling CIA, he has ambitions to control the world ... if he can control his own associates.
Ronnie Gilchrist (Nick & Jake): You can take the girl out of Winnetka ... and with the right influences, you can take Winnetka out of the girl.
Irving Kristol (co-founder, Encounter; neo-conservative pioneer): Could the liberal editor of a leftist intellectual journal have a secret agenda?
Senator Joseph McCarthy (junior senator from Wisconsin): He had the Commies crying Uncle Sam ... until he took a shine to the army.
John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State): Ike's right hand, the Dulles who played by the book.
Margery Pyle Carraway (Nick & Jake): Nick's estranged wife--it was the little things that drove them apart.
Dorothy Kilgallen (newspaper columnist, radio/ TV personality): Scandal was her line, the Little Red Thrush her mystery guest.
Alden Pyle Carraway (The Quiet American): Nick's son; expatriate, rebel, idealist; he did great harm out of good intentions.
Larry Darrell (The Razor's Edge): For him, the line between enlightenment and espionage was as thin as a razor's edge.
Irving Sheinbloom (A Mighty Wind): Folk music was his business, but a pretty girl could send him on top of Old Smokey.
Jackie Susann (author, Valley of the Dolls): From her room in the Martha Washington Hotel for Women, she had her own brand of New York savvy for Ronnie Gilchrist.
Little Johnny Phillips (founder, The Mamas and the Papas): Musically ahead of his time, come Monday morning he was still a kid.
Lee Hays and Ronnie Gilbert (The Weavers): Members of the popular folk quartet, they needed a replacement for Pete Seeger, but Ronnie Gilchrist was not to be their darling.
The other guy in the Weavers: Whose name no one could ever remember.
Roy M. Cohn (Senator McCarthy's top aide): He found Commie filth on every bookshelf, and a Red in every closet.
Davey Schine (McCarthy investigator): Did his heart belong to "Daddy," or did every little breeze seem to whisper Maurice?
Thomas Fowler (The Quiet American): British journalist. Saigon was his beat, Americans were his bête-especially the quiet ones.
Stephen Spender (British poet): A close Encounter with the CIA was more than he bargained for.
Robert Cohn (The Sun Also Rises): Roy's uncle, CIA maverick. He thought the sun also rose for him ... but only if he could make it set over Jake Barnes.
Maurice Chevalier (entertainer, collaborator): He sang for the Germans, but he didn't remember it well.
Clare Boothe Luce (author, ambassador): She could make Time stand still, but for Nick she was arsenic and old Luce.
Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (existentialists): These French intellectuals were more than willing to make Nick Carraway the toast of Paris.
Kim Philby (British/Soviet double agent): Could he be trusted with the deepest secrets of American intelligence?
Clyde Tolson (associate director, FBI): Special friend of the FBI Director, he knew all the secrets ... and he knew Christine.
Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show): With Ronnie as her mentor, she would make it after all.
Bud Powell (American jazz pianist): A tormented genius who would do anything for a friend.
Francis Paudras (French jazz critic): Journalist, jazz lover, he would work till 'round midnight to help Jake.
Helen Fowler (The Quiet American): Thomas Fowler's estranged wife ... but no divorce.
Dr. Christian Hamburger (Danish surgeon): The Stein Ericksen of sex-change surgery.
Stein Ericksen (Olympic champion): The Christian Hamburger of Alpine skiing.
Jerry Wexler (record producer): Co-founder of Atlantic Records with Ahmet Ertegun, he had an ear for talent, and Ronnie Gilchrist was talent.
Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Chuck Berry, David "Fathead" Newman (recording artists): They each had something to teach Ronnie about music ... and life.
Lady Brett Ashley (The Sun Also Rises): An old girlfriend of Jake's, she's chosen the path of enlightenment, but she hasn't lost her sense of entitlement.
Bill Buckley (author, conservative icon): A schoolyard bully.
Sloan Wilson (author, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit): An American in Paris who picks up a novel idea from Nick.
James Baldwin (author): As an expatriate in another country, he was saving his fire for next time.
Lamont Cranston (The Shadow): A wealthy young man about town who uses his power to cloud men's minds to influence the course of history.
William Fromme (father of Manson Family member): Margery's husband-to-be, raising his daughter Lynette to be a squeaky-clean American patriot.
Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh (prime minister of Iran 1951–1953): He believed American-style democracy could change the Middle East.
Art Buchwald (journalist): A young protégé of Jake's at the Paris Tribune.
Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi (Shah of Iran): A young protégé of Allen Dulles's on the Peacock Throne.
Jimmie Dodd (host, The Mickey Mouse Club): A TV director with some Mickey Mouse ideas about what makes a show work.
Albert Camus (author, philosopher): Another French intellectual absurdly eager to champion Nick.
Howard Koch (screen writer): An American writer and exile of conscience from McCarthyism. Here's looking at you, kid.
Sen. Prescott Bush (senator, war profiteer): The Presidency--maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
George H. W. Bush (CIA desk officer): Can Dulles trust him?
Jean Renoir (movie director) and Yves Montand (movie star): They hope to make a movie version of Nick's gangster novel.
Francoise Sagan (author, Bonjour Tristesse): She flashes a certain smile at Nick, but he's not so certain.
Maurice Girodias (publisher, Venus in Bondage, The Story of O, Lolita, Lady Chatterley's Lover): He has no trouble in promising Nick an Olympian advance.
Gen. Raoul Salan (founder, Terrorist Group Against Algerian Independence): In case we need a Falangist takeover of France.
Edward R. Murrow (legendary pioneer of television journalism): He wants his old pal Jake to join him in a brave new enterprise in electronic journalism. Good night, and good luck.
Blossom Dearie (American jazz singer): American expatriate who takes Ronnie under her wing.
York Harding (The Quiet American): A writer of books, he helped Alden understand the role of the West.CHAPTER 3
Assistant Undersecretary of State for
Department of State
Mr. Jacob Barnes
Paris Herald Tribune
38, rue de Berri
Paris 16e, France
January 26, 1953
Dear Mr. Barnes,
We have not met, but I'm a great admirer of yours. I am an avid reader of your byline in the Trib, and one of the treasured books in my library is your memoir of Paris in the Twenties, A Lost Generation. It's clear to me that you have a greater understanding than most Americans of Europe, and of France in particular.
From your vantage point you will see the urgent need, in a world still recovering from the wounds of war, of spreading abroad the good news of American ideals, American values, and American progress. We showed the world our might in the armed conflict; now, with the architect of that victory leading from the White House, we must seize the opportunity to show the world our compassion, our moral compass, our democratic ideals, and the beacon of hope that shines from Lady Liberty's torch. I am hoping that you can assist me in gathering some information that may prove helpful to your country. There is, as you know, a bit of hysteria in Washington these days over the influence of International Communism in U.S. libraries abroad. You and I are men of the world. We know how damaging this sort of heavy-handed Puritan zeal can be to American prestige abroad when it gets out of hand.
I wonder if you can help me by compiling an informal list of books in embassy libraries that might be considered objectionable, so we can make a few timely removals and defuse the situation before it gets embarrassing. I realize this is an imposition, but I hope you will see the merit in this kind of preemptive strike.
Very Truly Yours,
Assistant Undersecretary of State for
Paris Herald Tribune
38, rue de Berri
Paris 16, France
Ass't Undersec. of State for European
Department of State
January 29, 1953
Dear Mr. Carraway,
I would sooner swim the Marne.
1 rue de Fleurus
Paris 6, France
Mr. George Jorgensen
Good luck with the operation.
Me? It's a damned interesting suggestion, but no thanks! I am sitting here in the Closerie des Lilas watching some Bryn Mawr girls get drunk on white wine and what unscrupulous restaurateurs assure them is absinthe, imagining themselves in the fairy tales their fairy college professors told them. I too am doing my damnedest to get a drunk on, thanks to your proposal. It gives me the willies to think about it. Please. I already gave at the office.
Not that I haven't been tempted to make some changes in my life. When Brett went to Nepal last year, I kept thinking I was the one who should become a goddamn Buddhist monk and disappear from the world. I sometimes wish I'd written the novel about her I wanted to write, instead of pissing it away on A Lost Generation. You know, I told the whole story of her and me and Cohn and that damned bullfighter to a bartender one night around two in the morning. The sonofabitch pretended to be interested, but he was probably really hoping I'd shut the hell up so he could close up and go back to a clean, well-lighted room. It must have sounded like a bunch of nada to him, but it was fine and true and the next day it was gone and I had nothing to show for it but the hangover. And then I walked into the Crillon Bar that night and met you. And I thought, now there is one hell of a novel just begging to be written. Watch out for writers, Georgie my girl. We'll eat you alive and suck the marrow from your bones. That at least is our intention. Sometimes I even disgust myself, but writing is a goddamn disease.
Anyway, Brett was all right. And you're all right, George. You're a swell guy, and I guess this may be the last time I'll be able to say that.
And me? Fuck it, I guess I'll wait for the day they can sew the goddamn thing back on. What about yours? You won't be using it.
Assistant Undersecretary of State for
Department of State
Mr. Allen Dulles
Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Jan. 30, 1953
Dear Mr. Dulles,
I wrote Barnes as per our discussion. Enclosed please find a copy of his response. He's a bit talkier than General McAuliffe at Bastogne, but not by much.
This may be the wrong way to get to someone like Barnes. If the idea is to use important journalists to shape opinion in France, Barnes is our man. But we're not going to get to him just by waving the flag. I don't know much about Europe, but I read Barnes' book, A Lost Generation, and I guess all of us followed the reporting he and Murrow did during the war. This is a tough, independent-minded guy.
Excerpted from Nick & Jake by Jonathan Richards, Tad Richards. Copyright © 2012 Tad Richards and Jonathan Richards. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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