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February 11, 2009

Charles McCarry

I'm going to be busy for a while being alive. But in the meantime, I'm wondering whether anyone who visits this site has heard of Charles McCarry. I recently read his novel The Tears of Autumn, and was mildly stunned by how good it is. Now I'm trying to read all the rest of his books.

The Tears of Autumn was published in 1974, and is about a CIA agent named Paul Christopher who believes he's figured out who shot JFK and why. This is from a section near the beginning; Patchen is Christopher's supervisor:

They were alone on the sidewalk, and when they reached Connecticut Avenue the broad street was empty of cars...

They were in front of a bar, and Patchen started toward its door. "Let's stop outside a minute," Christopher said. "You know what's involved here, David. If these politicians never know what happened, they'll do it again."

"Yes. They will."

"You don't think that's worth preventing?"

"I don't think it's possible to prevent it, Paul. You have a flaw—you think the truth will make men free. But it only makes them angry. They believe what suits them, they do what they want to do, just like the slobs we're going to find lined up at the bar in there. Human beings are a defective species, my friend. Accept it."

"But don't you want to know?"

Or as Silence of the Lambs puts it, "Problem-solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure, and we are born to it."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 11, 2009 09:21 AM


I was stunned to find someone else who had read McCarry. I discovered his books back in the early '80s and was totally consumed by them.

Sean Connery later starred in "Wrong is Right" in 1982 (McCarry screenwrote with Richard Brooks) which is based on the novel "The Better Angels".

I heartily recommend all of McCarry's works.

Oh, and by the way - ATR is the first site I browse each and every day. Followed immediately by TomDispatch.

Posted by: Richard Armstrong at February 11, 2009 01:57 PM

E.J. Salsinas, the anhydrous ammonia salesman.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 11, 2009 03:03 PM

OOPS, wrong criminal, correction is Billy Sol Estes.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 11, 2009 03:06 PM

Mr Schwarz, thank you for introducing me to the author and the book. My favourite books and movies are 'espionage' and 'suspense'. Fortunately my library has the book so that will be my next book to read.
And, if this is about JFK assassination, it reminds me of the movie I saw years ago, "Executive Action" with Burt Lanacaster. It was great.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at February 11, 2009 04:00 PM

Welcome to the fan club. The Tears of Autumn is truly a classic of intelligence fiction, up there with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and very few others. McCarry's long series about Paul Christopher got more than a bit over the top in recent years, but the early ones are great. Wasn't it interesting that TToA defended the Diem regime?

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at February 11, 2009 05:07 PM

if i recall correctly, plato alleged that socrates said to his disciples that the philosopher and the average joe had different ways of looking at the problem of justice

to the average joe, justice is returning evil for evil in proper measure (hence the indignation directed at israel's action in gaza - in those places around the world - europe, mostly, i guess - where they heard about it in sufficient detail)

and the philosopher aspires to NEVER do evil

in "Money and the Meaning of Life", Jacob Needleman contrasts the viewpoints of the shrink and the spiritual aspirant - the shrink thinks people aren't as wonderful as they kid themselves they are, nor as bad as they secretly fear -

whereas the esoteric tradition asserts that they are much worse than they realize, but have the potential to rise to heights they cannot imagine with their currently degraded minds

i used to be a fan of todd rundgren - although probably his most frequently heard song has the refrain "i don't want to work - i want to bang on the drum all day" - i am fonder of "change myself" -

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 11, 2009 06:01 PM

It seems that McCarry also wrote a book called Citizen Nader.

Posted by: Duncan at February 11, 2009 10:18 PM

Hope your busyness in being alive is a good thing. Peace to you!

And I'll go look for that book.

Posted by: Svensker at February 12, 2009 09:54 AM

Thanks for the tip. I am a John Le Carre addict and am always looking for intelligent spy thrillers.

Posted by: Seth at February 12, 2009 04:51 PM