The Russia House, is, as one expects from John le Carré, is set in the Cold War era.
In the novel, a salesman at a Moscow book fair is slipped a document by a frightened woman who wants it delivered it to Barley Blair, who she says has agreed to publish it for a unnamed friend of hers.
The salesman sneaks the manuscript through customs. Unable to find Blair, he delivers it to British Intelligence, whose CIA counterparts find it details the Soviet’s nuclear capabilities and atomic secrets.
The Service finds Blair, and presses him turning spy.
Barley stays sober long enough to be trained in the rudiments of spy craft, and sent into Russia to find the unnamed author and verify the authenticity of the document.
He contacts Kayla, trying to reach the author through her.
Before he gets to Yakov, Barley and Kayla are in love, and Yakov appears to be under KGB surveillance.
On what’s supposed to be his final effort to find out if the documents are authentic, Barley disappears.
Russia House has all the complexity of earlier Le Carré novels, but a far less gloomy setting and an almost upbeat ending.
The View from Pompey’s Head by Hamilton Basso is a novel about New York City lawyer Anson Page whose work takes him back to his southern home.
Anson’s task is to determine whether a recently deceased editor for a publishing house embezzled a client’s royalties.
Anson’s law firm and their client assume his local connections will make it easy for him to find out why Mrs. Garvin Wales is sure Phillip Greene stole her husband’s royalties.
Anson assumes his local connections will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to find out the truth.
Basso explores not only the murky process of growing up, but the Southern mindset, which Anson calls “Southern Shintoism.”
Basso takes his time telling the story, letting Anson delve into his memories of how things appeared to him more than 15 years before.
Anson’s memories are still vivid, some painfully so, but his understanding of their meaning has changed as he matured. Anson finally finds the solution to the mystery of the re-directed royalties through his adult understanding of Southern culture.
Though the novel moves with Southern summer speed, Basso keeps it moving without any extraneous elements. Without exerting himself to entertain, he keeps readers engaged, leading them effortlessly to understand the value of the South’s myths.
Youngblood Hawke is Herman Wouk’s contribution to the shelf of novels by novelists about novelists. The novel has the usual plot complications readers expect as the rube with the typewriter is taken on, taken in, and taken over by shysters.
The story opens with Arthur Youngblood Hawke’s sale of his first novel to Prince House. The novel is promising rather than good.
Art figures he needs to write about seven books before he’ll know his craft. He aims to be first a successful author, then a rich one, living off his investments while he writes great books.
Art invests the income from his books in enterprises from hog futures and commercial real estate to self-publishing. His financial successes and failures are spectacular, but they are never what’s important to him. His world is the pad of lined yellow paper that he fills hour after hour.
Like most other novels about novelists, Youngblood Hawke contrasts the mercenary publishing world with the world of the art. But Wouk’s cast of colorful characters makes clear that the profit motive operates throughout society: even artists have to eat.
And the most tenacious of the followers after fortune may be somebody’s mother.
[Herman Wouk based Youngblood Hawke on the life of Thomas Wolfe. The photo above shows the boarding house owned and operated by Wolfe’s mother where Wolfe lived until he went to college.]
The star of Kathleen Winsor’s Star Money, Shireen Delaney, is a disturbed child who grows up to become a hugely successful novelist, disturbing a great many other people in the process.
As a teenager, Shireen was not interested in school or reading. She appeared to have little interest in boys. Nobody knew about the novels she’d been writing for years.
Within a few months of her marriage to nice, quiet Ed Farrell, however, he goes to the war and all the undiscovered facets of Shireen’s personality burst out.
To relieve the monotony of life alone, Shireen pounds out a novel and has affairs with Ed’s buddies. A New York agent turns Shireen into a celebrity author and becomes the closest thing Shireen has to a friend.
When Ed returns from service, he finds himself a non-entity in his wife’s social circles. Ed packs up and goes back home to L.A., leaving Shireen to face life alone, with only her agent, her boyfriends, and thousands of adoring fans for support. If you can believe author Kathleen Winsor, not one of those folks realizes Shireen has a few screws insufficiently tightened.
Winsor babbles about Shireen’s childhood, but show us nothing that could have warped anyone who was not already soft in the psyche.
Save your own psyche. Forget this novel.
by Kathleen Winsor
1950 bestseller # 5
My grade C