I picked up a hardcover copy of “Beach Music” by Pat Conroy at the public library used book sale last week for $1. Conroy’s first four books, including “Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini” were made into movies.
The first chapter starts in Rome and I thought, “How literary. This is going to be a woman’s book”. However, soon Conroy is skipping blithely though insanity, suicide, death, alcoholism, the Holocaust, the Vietnam anti-war movements and adventures with a manta ray at a pace which rivets your attention to the final page. The characters are universally interesting and finely drawn.
Another good buy for $1 was “The Company”, a 1,200 page hardcover historical novel about the Central Intelligence Agency. Unfortunately the back binding was broken so I had to constantly work to keep the pages aligned as I read.
The book starts in Berlin about 1950 and moves to the crushed Hungarian revolution, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Nixon’s resignation, Afghanistan and beyond.
One of the central real characters in the book is chain-smoking James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counter-intelligence from 1954 to 1974. Angleton, a close friend of Kim Philby, was uniquely positioned to betray secrets about the Bay of Pigs invasion, America’s lack of resolve in supporting the Hungarian revolution of 1956, cast doubt upon Soviet defectors and disrupt the CIA with continuous investigations of loyal and successful CIA operatives. Angleton named Henry Kissinger, Averill Harriman and Harold Wilson as KGB agents. He also was in a unique position to cripple intelligence sharing with the Mossad, MI6 and the French intelligence services.
Angleton died of lung cancer in 1984. A six-year study completed by Cleveland Cram, once Chief of Station of the Western Hemisphere, indicates that several senior CIA officials and Angleton’s assistant believe that he was a KGB mole.
A good book.