By William F. Buckley, Jr.
Original Publisher: Warner Books
Current Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Harold Augenbraum writes:
William F. Buckley, Jr. was a sesquipedalian politico commentator and author, and I don’t write that lightly. Even his Blackford Oakes novels, mass market CIA thrillers filled with Cold War suspense, seem to reek of a repression of long words, the unnecessary insertion of pedantic historical information, and factual appositions. To read them, it is best to recall when the Cold War was an exciting backdrop and the struggle over Eastern Europe involved men who often seemed to benefit mightily from the politics of intrigue, or lose their way. In the end, perhaps the only true beneficiaries were the authors of spy novels. In Stained Glass, Richard Nixon (the old red-baiter) and Whittaker Chambers (whom, by the way, Buckley employed at the National Review) make appearances, as does the KGB and the Stasi. But it all comes together in the second part, when Blackie Oakes figures out what is going on and begins to act both as witness and participant in the action. What makes Oakes, and the book, interesting is that he is decidedly not the superagent type like James Bond or Jason Bourne, but a bright man who tries to follow the rules, ‘though he bends them from time to time, for reasons based on human foibles. The Oakes novels are the espionage equivalent of the best of police procedurals. Stained Glass is an historical novel of assassination and intrigue (and a bit of classical music), from the master of “the foot and a half long” word.
Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.
Fiction (Mystery, Paperback) Finalists that Year:
- R. Wright Campbell for The Spy Who Sat and Waited
- Sean Flannery for The Kremlin Conspiracy
- Tony Hillerman for Listening Woman
- Michael Kurland for The Infernal Device
Fiction Judges that Year: Not available
The Year in Literature:
- The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
- Czeslaw Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- William F. Buckley, Jr. was inducted into the CIA as a deep cover agent in 1951, the same year that his first book, God and Man at Yale, was published.
- It was his experience in the CIA that inspired him to create the character of Blackford Oakes, the protagonist in Stained Glass, which is the second of the eleven books in the Blackford Oakes series.
The complete writings of William F. Buckley, Jr. Transcripts
from his longrunning TV show, Firing Line are available at the Hoover Institution.
A guide to reading WFB. - National Review Online
February 29, 2008 12:00 PM
Where Does One Start?
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