cover image Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton

Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton

William F. Buckley, JR., Jr. Buckley Jr. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $31 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100513-0

For the second time in little more than a year (following 1999's The Redhunter: A Novel Based on the Life of Senator Joe McCarthy), Buckley offers up a fictional account of an icon in America's war against communism. This time, he focuses on James Jesus Angleton, the head of counterintelligence at the CIA for 20 years. Buckley traces Angleton's career from 1945, when the young Yale graduate was handpicked by Allen Dulles, director of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in Europe, to work undercover in the Italian resistance, to his firing in 1974, when he was scapegoated for many of the CIA's moral and ethical lapses. Over those 30 years Angleton earned a reputation as a brilliant tactician, capable of discerning the most subtle of hidden motives in the international game of espionage. Yet he was also a man of such obsessive anti-communist fervor that at times it clouded his thinking, providing his enemies with ammunition for their attacks. While Buckley's perspective on Angleton's public and private life is perceptive--the worldly operative's mother was Mexican, and he grew up in Italy and England--the book suffers from glaring gaps in the master spy's biography. The late 1940s and early 1950s, for example, years when Angleton was laying the foundation for his career, are completely skipped over. Buckley also inexplicably derails an otherwise compelling story by cutting away for nearly a quarter of the book to follow one of Angleton's prodigies in action on low-level work in Lebanon in the early 1960s. In general, Buckley's protagonist never manifests the mysterious fascination he radiates in Aaron Latham's Orchids for Mother (1977). 75,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; 3-city author tour. (July)