Last week when I was in Seattle, I was introduced to a new friend, James Nolan, father of Elliott Nolan. He and his wife graciously hosted me on two occasions at their home on Mercer Island. During the many hours of fascinating conversation, we spent some time talking about favorite books and favorite authors. James lent me his treasured and well-worn copy of Charles McCarry's classic espionage novel, "The Tears of Autumn." James raved about the quality of McCarry's writing, and I would have to agree that this is almost a perfect book. The plot line is taut and crisp, shocking and plausible. The author convincingly ties together the assassination of Vietnam's President Diem and that of JFK a few weeks later.
The action of the novel ricochets among Saigon, Paris, Rome, Zurich, the Congo and D.C. Career spy Paul Christopher resigns and goes out on his own to discover why Kennedy was killed. His shocking discoveries cause seismic upheaval at the highest levels of several governments.
The quality of the writing is superb, akin to the best of LeCarre, Ludlum and Furst. He are a couple of brief excerpts to whet your appetite:
"They were in front of a bar, and Patchen started toward its door. 'Let's stop outside a minute,' Christopher said. 'You know what's involved here, David. If these politicians never know what happened, they'll do it again.'
'Yes, they will.'
'You don't think that's worth preventing?'
'I don't think it's possible to prevent it, Paul. You have a flaw - you think the truth will make men free. But it only makes them angry. They believe what suits them, they do what they want to do, just like the slobs we're going to find lined up at the bar in there. Human beings are a defective species, my friend. Accept it.'" (Pages 73-74)
This is a book, although its action is embedded in the events of 1963, that is timeless in its insights into the nature of human beings and their governments.
For a first time reader, this novel will be a treat. For those who already know the work of McCarry, I invite you to take another bite of the orange.