cover image Tucker's Last Stand

Tucker's Last Stand

William F. Buckley, JR.. Random House Large Print Publishing, $21.95 (486pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58858-2

Occupied more by politics than adventure, Buckley builds his ninth Blackford Oakes tale ( Mongoose, R.I.P ) around the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed by Congress a few months prior to the 1964 U.S. presidential election. CIA operative Blackie and an Army special projects major named Tucker Montana meet in Vietnam, where Tucker's assignment is to stall the movement of troops and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Blackie must stop similar shipments in the Gulf. Tucker, a priapic engineer who worked at Los Alamos, devises a brilliant plan, while Blackie outfits junks with radar to detect hidden cargoes. Meanwhile, back home, candidates Goldwater and Johnson spar, with Johnson eager to use the conflict in Southeast Asia to his own ends--resulting in clandestine maneuvers in the Gulf that leave even the patriotic Blackie feeling dirty. As Tucker's involvement with a beautiful NVA spy leads to its inevitable end, Blackie beds some local talent and converses archly in overseas phone calls with his recently widowed true love, Sally. A few sex scenes, a remarkable scenario at sea and fascinating glimpses of such Capitol figures as Abe Fortas, the Bundys and Robert Kennedy are ingredients in a story most memorable for the questions it raises about a still-troubling episode in our political history. (Jan.)