Our Man in Mongoa

Alex Alben, Author Gale Cengage $17.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-684-18827-0
Readers may find this first novel a heady blend of Grahame Green and Evelyn Waugh. CIA-analyst Walter Peabody is sent to the tiny South Pacific island of Mongoa. Satellite photos show a sophisticated mining operation in the impoverished kingdom. King Stanley, a USC alumnus, spends most of his time on U.S. mail-order catalogues and harebrained schemes that fortunately go nowhere. He is blissfully unaware that Mongoa and its primitive, neighboring ""protectorate'' of Bongoa are hotbeds of passions of one kind or another. Russia, France and South Africa covet the rhodium on Bongoa; the Soviet ambassador is having an affair with the U.S. ambassador's wife; American-born Queen Julia is having an affair with the French first-secretary; and Princess Octavia plots tirelessly against her brother Stanley. A series of mishaps in this boiling stew causes a Russian invasion, a French counter-attack and some needless deaths, but eventually Mongoa slips back into obscurity. Alben writes smoothly, with terrific pace and even better humor, which, deliciously deadpan, skewers even moving targets. The ``short history'' of Mongoa at the start is matched at the end by the Bongoan mythologizing of the Battle of Mongoa. Readers will look forward to the rest of the Walter Peabody trilogy. (September 30)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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