Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Readin': The Last Supper

Charles McCarry's spy novel The Last Supper is another of his works centered on the life of Paul Christopher, his main character. In this one, we get a fuller look at his family life; his father, the writer/spy, his mother the German aristocrat he met at her family's home on Rugen, an island in the Baltic Sea. McCarry shows us their first meeting, courtship and life together in a series of deft portraits.

Though the work is mainly about Paul, we get to meet others of his extended family; cousins, uncles, aunts, and hear stories of some of his more remote Hubbard family ancestors. Most of the family seems tied up in the early days of what they called 'the Outfit', the organization later known as the CIA. That history starts in the days leading up to WW II and we see glimpses of action in a variety of locales.

What is emerging for me, having now finished three of these books, is a much richer portrait of Paul Christopher. I may eventually go back and re-read The Miernik Dossier to pick up things I may not have grasped on first reading. It is an intricate portrait of a man whose behavior seems simple and straightforward to himself, but is incredibly strange to those around him. Paul's devotion is to The Truth, whatever that may be in the situation in which he finds himself. Others have a wide variety of motivations, few of them relating to truth, if any at all. I've come to admire Paul in ways I never thought I would. I'd love the chance to meet him, hang out with him. I realize that seems strange. He is, after all, a fictional character. But McCarry's writing has shown an infinitely complex man who seems so very human to me. I'm going to have to continue reading these stories, if only to learn more about Paul.

This is some of the best fictional writing I have come across in a long time. I have already started on the next book Christopher's Ghosts and will be reporting on that in time. The Last Supper is a really good book, but I would not recommend it as the first Paul Christopher novel you read. It is, however, highly recommended.

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.