Allen Drury followed up his blockbuster novel Advise and Consent with A Shade of Difference, which builds on events and characters from that novel.
In the mid-twentieth century, “Terrible Terry,”a Western-educated leader of a British possession, is seeking UN help in getting immediate independent status for his African country. Terry has the support of the Communist countries as well as the non-aligned and anti-American nations. More important, Terry has the support of the liberal segment of Americans always ready to denounce their nation.
When Terry dramatically escorts a black girl to integrate a white Southern school, he unleashes a violent clash of races and political opponents.
An experienced political reporter, Drury writes with an insider’s knowledge and a propagandist’s aim.
However, he’s also a capable story teller, who never forgets that readers come for the story. His omniscient character descriptions are borne out by the words and actions of those characters.
The most startling aspect of A Shade of Difference is how contemporary the story feels. Representative Cullee Hamilton, caught in the conflict between the races and his own political ambitions is a fictional sixties Barack Obama.
Whatever your political leanings, you will find intrigue and entertainment in the pages of this political thriller.
A Shade of Difference
1962 bestseller #3
The Ugly American is less a novel than a series of related stories of Americans in Asia during the era of the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts.
William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick contrast the American foreign service staff in Asia with the Russian foreign service, basing their tale on actual people and events. The novel’s goal isn’t entertainment, but persuasion.
America’s diplomatic core in Asia don’t speak the language, don’t know the customs, stick to themselves, never get outside the cities where their embassies are housed.
Worse, they reject advice from Americans whose language skills and willingness to interact with the locals give them expertise.
The Russians, by contrast, train their foreign service staff thoroughly before deploying them. As a result, the Russians win the hearts and minds of the people. The Americans are despised.
The great — and horrific — thing about The Ugly American is that it still feels real today. You have only to see newscasts of President George W. Bush shrugging off the Iraqi shoe-thrower to see that Americans still have no appreciation of the cultures in which they have troops stationed. And post 9/11,we’ve seen how effective Mao’s embedded insurgents can be.
I hope you will read this novel— and that you won’t like what you read one bit.
The Ugly American
by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick
W. W. Norton, 1958
My grade C+