cover image Mamista


Len Deighton. HarperCollins Publishers, $21.95 (410pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017936-6

Using a broad, dark canvas, Deighton ( The Ipcress File ; Spy Sinker ) follows the convoluted trails of diverse political interests converging in the South American jungle of Spanish Guiana, where a U.S. prospecting team has discovered oil. Comrade Ramon, revolutionary leader of the MAMista ( Movimiento de Accion Marxista ) which opposes the country's right-wing leader, has recently been joined by Ralph Lucas, an Australian doctor investigating medical conditions among the MAMista forces, and Angel Paz, a hot-tempered young Marxist from Los Angeles. Maddeningly infused with stereotypes, Deighton's characters both intrigue and frustrate: Ramon is a ruthless, compassionate realist; the idealistic Paz is oblivious to the aims of the guerrillas; Lucas hides his politics behind his physician's role; the U.S. president's chief aide is untouched by the human implications of his decisions, made after an undercover CIA agent is taken in a bloody MAMista raid. During the revolutionaries' arduous march through the rain forest (with its powerful metaphor of entropy and decay), nature, chance and human ineptitude inexorably claim their victims. While this ambitious, bitter and unredemptive tale has a potent afterlife, it ultimately disappoints, defeated by an intricate plot not fully commanded and by characters who remain elusive. 200,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo. (Aug.)