The Pledge

Howard Fast, Author
Howard Fast, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18.95 (324p) ISBN 978-0-395-48308-4
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Fast, whose many bestselling novels have made him an American institution, writes here of a situation with personal overtones. A left-wing activist during his youth, Fast denounced the Communist Party in the 1940s, but rather than testify before the witch-hunting HUAC, he served a jail term during the '50s. The protagonist of this novel is foreign correspondent Bruce Bacon. After covering WW II in Europe, he goes to India where he witnesses a horrible famine in Bengaldue, he is told by everyone, including the Communist journalist who shows him the horrors firsthandto the British, who would rather see millions of Indians die than allow them to greet the Japanese as liberators. Back in the States, Bacon takes a leave of absence from the New York Trib to write a book about his experiences. Asked to speak to a group later identified as a Communist-front organization, he meets feisty, articulate Molly Maguire, a writer for the Daily Worker , and falls in love with her. Nothing in Bruce's politically innocent, upper-middle-class WASP background has prepared him for Molly's ``shanty Irish'' world, or for the ordeal that awaits him as he is caught in the mounting anti-red hysteria. Called before the HUAC, he is cited for contempt; he loses his job; his book is refused by publishers; eventually he is sentenced to jail. And a further tragic irony awaits. Fast's narrative sense has never been stronger, the dialogue has verve and creditability, and red-haired Molly is one of his most memorable creations. Deftly, avoiding stridency, he captures the McCarthy-era atmosphere of suspicion and betrayal. More than compelling fiction, this engrossing novel carries a message of what can happen when democracy is subverted by demogogues. (September)
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