TAINT OF INNOCENCE by Marquis Childs


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After The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the factual disclosures of CIA interference in the wrong places and ineptitude in the expected places, it would appear that the only existence permitted now to the fictional spy is either in an expose or a parody. But Marquis Childs, an otherwise serious journalist, attempts to offer us, as a sympathetic hero, a man who has spent eleven years as a CIA agent though temperamentally he is more suited to the job of scout leader in Westchester. Robert Cameron, however, is not the ""ugly American."" His ""given"" background -- the son of medical missionaries in the Near East, a top student in Arab studies at Harvard, supposedly has equipped him for a role which he has been talked into by better minds than his. But despite this, and his vague idealism, his responses are no different from any other junior executive who finds himself overburdened with paperwork and unable to find time for his family. Cameron becomes implicated in a Soviet plot to discredit the American oil interests in his part of the world when his boyhood friend, an English journalist working for the Russians, forges a letter revealing American intent to hoodwink the Arabs. The part he must play here -- as a decoy, is so distasteful to him that he decides to quit the Agency (as though after these eleven years he is getting his hands dirty for the first time). He returns to Washington where he is dissuaded from this course by the superior intelligence of the mentor who recruited him in the first place. The author is obviously intending to show the effects of a rotten but, in his estimation, necessary system on a well-intentioned ordinary man. But his characters are so banal and so conventional that his viewpoint is not represented very well. In fact it's doubtful from the start if Robert and his complaining wife, Emily (a Radcliffe girl whose conversation is limited to the weather and the children) would have made it at Parsons U., never mind Cambridge.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1966
Publisher: Harper & Row