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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Department of Book Reports: River of Darkness

This week I am turning to an older book that I just recently read on the recommendation of a thoughtful and political friend of mine. Many will remember James Grady as the author of the 1970's (and very good) spy thriller, Six Days of the Condor, which was condensed by Hollywood into Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack and featuring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, and concerned the internecine warfare in the intelligence community. (James Grady, interestingly enough, is the father of Rachel Grady, the director/producer of Jesus Camp from a couple of years ago.)

Grady's River of Darkness (Warner Books, Out of Print) was published in 1991, and follows the doings of the Intelligence community after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain. The plot revolves around three characters: Jud Stuart is an ex-CIA operative, currently on the lam for having killed a would-be assassin outside of an LA bar; Nick Kelley is his old friend, a novelist, who begins his own search for Jud; and Wes Chandler is a Marine JAG, called in by the CIA to track down Jud and bring him in, so as to avoid further scandal after the Iran-Contra nightmare. Grady is a master of the genre, with deft characterizations, and a finely developed plot. The story ends with the major confrontation one would expect, but with a turn that is both unexpected, and right.

But even better is the back story Grady provides for Jud Stuart. From serving in the Special Forces (where he operates clandestinely in Laos), to off-the-record work for the CIA, Jud has been to most of the post Viet Nam era hotspots, including Iran, where he attempts to assist the Kurds, to Chile, helping the Pinochet coup, to Nicaragua. It is a virtual catalog and history of the CIA, and their sordid history of interventionist operations. This is one of the reasons my friend recommended the book to me, and it is a frightening tour, even if one has read Timothy Weiner's Legacy of Ashes.

On the human level, the portrayal of Jud Stuart is the crux of the story. When we meet him, he is a drunk, fat, with eroding skills. He once was Spy supreme, with knowledge of the martial arts, arsenal, and good instincts. His journey seems redemptive, but in the end his history overwhelms both him, and those he loves. The spy business is soul-sucking and lethal.

The book is out-of-print, but a quick search of shows many copies available on-line. If your favorite independent bookstore>fine local independent bookstore does book searches, they can get you a copy. Do so. It is well worth the effort.

Jackson Street Books is still on hiatus, but hey, this hardcover copy is available for $5 plus shipping. Give us a holler!

SeattleTammy would like to ask for a moment of silence, for Samuel Snow.

Wrongly Convicted WWII Vet Dies After Apology

After the Army review last October, the known families were cut a check for $725 in back pay, based on pay at the time of the soldiers' convictions. But congressmen are pushing for the Army to pay interest and adjust for inflation on the payments, which would significantly increase the figure.

Jack Hamann has said the Army is not spending money to search for them. If anyone knows these families, have them contact Jack Hamann.

Here is a list of those former Army soldiers historians still hope to find, with their last known cities:

John S. Brown, Sr. (1922-1954), Lancaster, S.C.
Johnnie Ceaser (1922-1950), Chicago
James C. Chandler, Jr. (1923-1990), Kansas City, Mo.
Willie S. Curry (1924-1968), Houston, Texas
Russell L. Ellis (1912-1977), Los Angeles
Jefferson D. Green (1916-1994), San Antonio, Texas
Frank R. Hughes (1913-1983), Hearne, Texas
Loary M. Moore (1920-1994), Houston, Texas
Robert Sanders (1923-2006), Chicago
Freddie L. Simmons (1907-1973), , Macon, Ga.
Nathaniel T. Spencer (1911-1973), Detroit, Mich.
Arthur L. Stone (1920-1985), Detroit, Mich.
Richard L. Sutliff (1920- ?), Houston, Texas
Booker W. Thornton (1908-1981), Chicago
David Walton (1910-1969), Chicago
Wallace A. Wooden (1908- ?), Chicago

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.