The Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist smartly centers this historical novel, an amalgam of fact and supposition, on a charming rogue. Lowell Brady is a junior naval officer looking for a safe place to ride out the seemingly inevitable World War II. As the son of a wealthy mother and the stepson of an influential senator, he sees it as his natural-born right; years later, he says, “[Y]ou run into men who say they want to be ‘tested’ in battle, but…ignorance explains the greater part of that. Being in a situation where heroes are made is damned poor planning in the first place.” His henpecked stepfather was a confidant of President Franklin Roosevelt, and FDR decides to use young Brady’s natural proclivity as a gossip to gather information at the highest levels of American and British societies. The president wants to find a way to overcome the American public’s aversion to joining the war effort before it’s too late. Brady undergoes a dizzying ascension, during which he meets such historical giants as Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, but he eventually becomes a man who knows too much—and his minimal conscience ends up getting him in trouble with the powers that be. Later, in 1953, Smithsonian researcher Harriet Gallatin discovers Brady living under a pseudonym in a veteran’s home, where he tells her a shocking tale: Roosevelt, he says, “schemed to bring us into war with Japan, and even knew that their fleet was en route to Pearl Harbor.” As a result, she soon finds herself in danger as well. Carroll believably brings both historical and fictional figures to life while slowly and skillfully unreeling Brady’s story, which shifts back and forth between World War II and the early 1950s. The fast-paced story successfully juxtaposes Brady’s own first-person remembrances and Gallatin’s initially skeptical analysis of the man (“Brady said that most of the recent history I knew was bunk”). Overall, the author’s journalistic style develops a detailed portrait of an unlucky man caught up in events far beyond his control.
A riveting adventure that effectively explores the idea that history is written by the winners.