Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. McCarry?

One of life's minor pleasures is reading a book that has been on your shelf for years. I have had Charles McCarry's Old Boys for six or seven years. It's not that I didn't want to read it, but it was the first McCarry I acquired. Having bought it, I realized it was a series book and that I would have to go about purchasing the, then out of print and hard to find, earlier books. I spent some time tracking down used copies and then Overlook Press reprinted his books. So, I've now caught up and could read this one.

Reading these books in order is important. Even more than the Ian Fleming novels, there are important subplots that span the books that will be ruined if you read them out of order. The earlier ones you can probably read out of synch, but you should hold off on Old Boys, until you have read a few of the earlier ones.

McCarry's books are old school spy novels, which makes sense as he was an old school spy. The main characters are not Jack Bauers or even James Bond's, but instead are skilled in subterfuge and ferreting out information by means other than torture. The plots are often elaborate, and this book is no exception. There is so much going on that it might seem a bit much. The plot starts with one retired spy gathering some retired friends to find the missing Paul Christopher, the hero from the first books. Loose nukes, family history, terrorism and the new Russia figure heavily.

What also figures heavily is one of the better subplots from any of his books, and one of the cleverest conspiracy theories I have ever read. In addition to looking for Paul Christopher, the characters are hunting for a text which claims that one of histories great events was actually a covert operation. If you buy the arguments of a certain 18th century British historian, it would make for the biggest case of blowback of all time.

The book is a bit sprawling, but bits like the covert op make it a lot of fun.


Brack said...

The first (and thus far the only) McCarry novel that I have read is Christopher's Ghosts, set in the run-up to WWII and focusing on the teenage years of the main character of the series. His parents played a major role in this novel, and I got the impression that they may figure heavility in some of those multi-volume subplots, T. No more skipping around for me; I will go back and start with the Miernick Dossier.

Tripp said...

Good thinking. Miernick is particularly good in any case.