Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Readin': Lucky Bastard

Lucky Bastard is the title of the latest Charles McCarry novel that I have read. I finished it Monday night. It is the story of Jack Adams, John Fitzgerald Adams, who believes himself to be the bastard child of JFK, conceived while his mother was a single Navy nurse in a hospital in San Francisco. When found to be pregnant, she is discharged from the Navy and then goes back to Ohio, marries a man, and six months later delivers Jack. Jack is orphaned 5 years later when his parents die in a car crash and is raised by his maternal grandparents.

The novel is the story of Jack Adams rise to political power, sponsored by two shadowy agents of the KGB who recruit him during his time at the University of Heidelberg (after they had already arranged his fellowship there after he finished at Columbia). Jack has a manic sex drive and they use that to control him, sort of. The novel is fascinating in its exploration and explanation of recent history in America, from the student unrest of the 60s, through feminism, environmentalism, drugs (where they ultimately come from and who is ultimately sponsoring them) and many other facets of American life as seen through the eyes of one of those two KGB agents. The story is told as a sort of memoir of the complete operation from the point of view of the handler of the case.

McCarry is easy to read; his writing is straightforward and, at the same time, action packed. He shows his characters to great psychological depth, betraying a sympathy for even the least admirable of his characters in their ultimate humanity.

The end of the novel is quite surprising. I certainly will not spoil it here. Though this book had no real connection to any of the Paul Christopher novels beyond one tantilizing hint about a peripheral, though important, character in two of the Christopher novels, The Better Angels and Old Boys, it is well worth the read on its own merits. Highly recommended reading.

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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.