cover image Chinese Red

Chinese Red

E. Howard Hunt, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (375p) ISBN 978-0-312-08157-7

Cliched language, shopworn stereotypes and uneven pacing turn a potentially exciting thriller into a run-of-the-mill effort. Genre veteran Hunt ( Body Count ) sets the plot in motion with a murder in Charlottesville, Va., falsely pinned on 35-year-old ex-CIA agent Quinn Chance by hard-line Soviets hoping to prevent a move by Kremlin liberals toward entente with China. Rescued by the head of Chinese intelligence, who favors reconciliation with the U.S.S.R., Quinn sneaks into Geneva, where the Soviet agent trying to expedite the pact turns out to be his former mentor, CIA renegade Paul Valcour. Quinn begins an affair with Paul's sister Toni, and against a background of American and Soviet internal politicking they battle various factions before a weak finale generated by the failed Kremlin putsch of 1991. Burdened with trite dialogue (``before you I never knew what it was to love someone''), clunky phrases (``without ladening you with details'') and annoyingly prolix internal monologues, the prose constitutes only part of the problem. Hunt's macho fantasizing (Quinn is catnip to women) and patronizing characterization (the bedroom of two gay men is ``exquisitely feminine'') are so old-fashioned as to be embarrassing. More than a consciousness-raising session, however, Hunt needs some firm editing. ( Nov. )