THE PLEDGE by Howard Fast


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Drawing on a personal experience in the witch-hunting days of the McCarthy era of the 50's, Fast shrinks his cast of characters and action to accommodate yards and yards of talk concerning the dilemma of a blacklist-victim who is branded a traitor to the US and spends a year in jail. Distinguished foreign correspondent Bruce Bacon, son of a Manhattan surgeon, graduate of the best schools, high-minded and nonpolitical, is in Calcutta at the close of WW II and uncovers what could be a major scandal: while thousands are dying of starvation in India's city, warehouses are bursting with rice, which the British are refusing to confiscate to feed the multitudes. As he researches the story, Bruce will meet and talk with three good people, all of whom--in different ways--work for justice (and mercy); they also happen to be communists. Back in the US, after the war, Bruce, a Tribune star reporter and correspondent, with a book in the works, meets sweet and tough Molly Maguire, of humble but feisty Boston Irish persuasion, a Catholic, and also a reporter for the communist Daily Worker. Before long, there'll be a visit from the FBI, although Bruce remains nonpolitical and would never become a communist: He ""couldn't believe in the communist brotherhood of man any more than. . .a Christian brotherhood of man."" Meanwhile, Molly defends her loyalty to the Party (although she'll later leave): ""We still have never betrayed the workers or peace or the women's movement."" Soon come the rumors, loss of job, rejection of his book, then the subpoena for Bruce to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He is cited for contempt (before a jury of Federal employees). Bruce will be imprisoned in the progressive prison of Mill Bog, West Virginia--and released just before the final tragedy. As always, Fast writes with billboard scope (have any of his Irish women been anything other than redheaded, tough, and with hearts of gold?). Hardly a realistic view of a miserable aspect of the political 50's, but Fast fans will find familiar stances and people--as well as miles of oratory.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin