This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Fables of the CIA

Officers and analysts struggle, whether in the field or behind a desk, in this collection of CIA–centric stories.

Grayson (Strange Science Fiction and Fantasy Omnibus, 2014, etc.) offers only four tales in this book, but they vary in both tone and length. Fortunately, the most exciting story is also the longest, the novella-sized “But Who Pursues?” In it, CIA desk jockey Steve Rogers’ poor job performance is the result of losing his wife and sons. He’s saved from unemployment by pal Mac, who also lands Steve an assignment: tag along with Navy officer George Caruthers to Zurich. Steve, unaware of Caruthers’ objective, is taken aback when the man chains an attaché case to his wrist and hands him a revolver. Things get worse when a bloody Caruthers later returns and, before dying, warns Steve to run. Steve heads back to the U.S. as quickly and covertly as possible, but he’s fairly certain someone’s trailing him, especially once people who try to help him wind up dead. He finally takes the offensive, using funds (courtesy of Caruthers) to buy a newspaper and to hopefully draw out his pursuers with headlines teasing a tell-all article. The story’s rife with suspense; readers, like Steve, don’t know who’s after him, making every character a suspect. The book’s opening tale, “The Station Chief,” is markedly different, an irreverent account of a chief in Senegal, West Africa, so overbearing that agents look for a way to have him transferred somewhere else. In the delightful but straight-faced “The Successful Intelligence Officer,” a by-the-book officer may get the agency to reinstate his terminated recruiting gig by doing something dishonest. “The Intelligence Research Analyst” closes the book with a rather modest tale of an analyst, disgruntled with writing reports, contemplating another position. The author’s meticulous prose works best in “Pursues,” its protagonist appropriately scrupulous in everything he does, including tracking down old contacts or finding places to sleep. Humor, meanwhile, is relegated to the first story and is incongruently off-center: an officer justifies his affair by claiming that he and his wife’s baby was “a monster, with two heads.”

This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57949-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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