By: Paul Vidich
Publication Date: 4/12/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
A debut espionage novel in the style of Alan Furst and John le Carré, An Honorable Man is a chilling Cold War spy thriller set in 1950s Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C., 1953. The Cold War is heating up: McCarthyism, with all its fear and demagoguery, is raging in the nation’s capital, and Joseph Stalin’s death has left a dangerous power vacuum in the Soviet Union.
The CIA, meanwhile, is reeling from a double agent within their midst. Someone is selling secrets to the Soviets, compromising missions around the globe. Undercover agents have been assassinated, and anti-Communist plots are being cut short in ruthlessly efficient fashion. The CIA director knows any news of the traitor, whose code name is Protocol, would be a national embarrassment and compromise the entire agency.
George Mueller seems to be the perfect man to help find the mole: Yale-educated; extensive experience running missions in Eastern Europe; an operative so dedicated to his job that it left his marriage in tatters. The Director trusts him. Mueller, though, has secrets of his own, and as he digs deeper into the case, making contact with a Soviet agent, suspicion begins to fall on him as well. Until Protocol is found, no one can be trusted, and everyone is at risk.
A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Old-Fashion Spy Fiction at its Finest!
Paul Vidich delivers a fascinating adventurous debut AN HONORABLE MAN –richly atmospheric, inspired by true events. Suspenseful—powerful and gritty; a chilling Cold War spy mystery thriller!
Dark shadows are lurking from the past. How personal is the political? Is the past ever past? A riveting mystery with a poignant cast of characters – Complex, emotional, rich in history.
In the grand tradition---Classic spy fiction genre of literature involves espionage, emerging from the early twentieth century, inspired by rivalries and intrigues between the major powers, and the establishment of modern intelligence agencies.
Who can be trusted? Agents haunted by their own compromises.
Set in Washington DC in the 1950s, The Cold War is heating up. Joseph Stalin’s death. An unsettling time. Tensions, stresses, enemies, corruption, bureaucracy, secrets, hypocrisy, and betrayal. A time when people lived the life that was excepted of them.
From communism, homosexuality, atheism.
There is a double agent. Someone is selling secrets to the Soviets. A traitor. Code name – Protocol. The Soviets had penetrated the Agency. Someone inside had provided the Soviets with drop points, and later the names of CIA assets. Everyone worried about a Soviet agent in their midst. A traitor.
George Mueller is the perfect man to assist. Find the mole. Muller liked to keep private matters away from his job, but the daily grind made that hard. Politics had taken over everything. He was tired of the double life, the daily mask.
Lonely. Holding onto secrets. Life changing secrets. A desire to escape. Muller wants out. A polygraph test. College, the war, Vienna. Loneliness. Secrets were restless things. Secrets got out. The motivations of men around him were suspect and he no longer knew whom to trust.
The Council selected men who they believed had access to the Agency’s secrets and a motive. Twenty names. Each suspect. The list was secret. Secrecy protected the investigation from compromise, but is also protected the reputations of the innocent.
Based on the sad troubled life of James Speyer Kronthal, found dead 4/1/1953 similar to Robert Altman--a brilliant young deputy of Allen Dulle’s who had worked in the OSS with Dulles in the Bern Station during the WWII. He was one of the original 60 whom Dulles brought to the CIA. The initial recruits were not required to take a polygraph test. Later the CIA discovered a questionable life. In order to keep arrest and scandal under wraps, he was later set up, blackmailed, and became the first Soviet mole in the CIA. These acts later came to light. Forced to honor and duty—compulsions destroy careers—leading to apparent suicide (his death), in order to prevent political embarrassment. Read more at the end of the book, in the acknowledgements.
Taut storytelling Reminiscent of old-school John Le Carré spy thrillers -- Vidich uses well-researched references, books, websites, and quotes of poetry and literary prose-an intriguing Ivy League educated young man who lived a secret life within a secret career. Layers of secrets. A hostile political environment—hushed, during the Cold War.
“Oh, my worse sin was in my blood; Now my blood pays for it.”—John Webster
Quite interesting how spy fiction has taken on different roles throughout history: from the Nineteenth century, WWI, Inter-war period, WWII, the early/late Cold War (British/American), Post Cold War, to Post–9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, with a reawakened interest in the peoples and politics of the world beyond its borders-- with new authors emerging in the espionage genre.
Despite the end of the Cold War the spy genre has flourished but changed to keep up with the shifts in the political landscape post 9/11.
Gripping! Red-baiting fifties--a term commonly used in the US and its history, often associated with the McCarthyism, which originated in the two historic Red Scare periods of the 1920s (First Red Scare) and 1950s (Second Red Scare). Due to mounting Cold War tensions and the spread of communism --- "McCarthyism" being coined to signify any type of reckless political persecution or witch-hunt.
After reading, you will understand why Publishers Weekly named AN HONORABLE MAN the Top Ten Mysteries & Thrillers of Spring 2016 (plus many other mentions and awards). Most certainly on my radar! Impressive.
Looking forward to listening to the audio version narrated by, George Newbern.
The Literary Spy Novel: Five Recommendations by Paul Vidich.
April Top Reads
“Cold War spy fiction in the grand tradition—neatly plotted betrayals in that shadow world where no one can be trusted and agents are haunted by their own moral compromises.”
—Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Berlin and Istanbul Passage
“A cool, knowing, and quietly devastating thriller that vaults Paul Vidich into the ranks of such thinking-man’s spy novelists as Joseph Kanon and Alan Furst. Like them, Vidich conjures not only a riveting mystery but a poignant cast of characters, a vibrant evocation of time and place, and a rich excavation of human paradox.”
—Stephen Schiff, Co-Producer and writer, The Americans
“As I read An Honorable Man, I kept coming back to George Smiley and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. That’s how good this book is. Much like John le Carre and Eric Ambler before him, Vidich writes with a confidence that allows him to draw his characters in clean, simple strokes, creating dialogue that speaks volumes in a few spare lines while leaving even more for the reader to fathom in what’s not said at all. At the center of the novel is George Mueller, a man who walks in the considerable shadow of Smiley but with his own unique footprint, his own demons and a quiet, inner strength that sustains and defines him in endless shades of cloak and dagger gray. Pick up this book. You’ll love it.”
—Michael Harvey, New York Times bestselling author of The Chicago Way
“An Honorable Man is wonderful — an unputdownable mole hunt written in terse, noirish prose, driving us inexorably forward. In George Mueller, Paul Vidich has created a perfectly stoic companion to guide us through the intrigues of the red-baiting Fifties. And the story itself has the comforting feel of a classic of the genre, rediscovered in some dusty attic, a wonderful gift from the past.”
—Olen Steinhauer, New York Times Bestselling author of The Tourist and All the Old Knives
“Paul Vidich’s tense, muscular thriller delivers suspense and intelligence circa 1953: Korea, Stalin, the cold war, rage brilliantly, and the hall of mirrors confronting reluctant agent George Mueller reflects myriad questions. Just how personal is the political? Is the past ever past? An Honorable Man asks universal questions whose shadows linger even now. Paul Vidich’s immensely assured debut, a requiem to a time, is intensely alive, dark, silken with facts, replete with promise.”
—Jayne Anne Phillips, New York Times Bestselling author of Lark and Terminte and Machine Dreams
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About the Author
PAUL VIDICH’S debut novel, An Honorable Man, will appear in April 2016 from Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, Wordriot, and other places. Junot Diaz selected his story “Jump Shot” as a winner of the 2010 Fugue Short Story Contest and his story “Falling Girl,” was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and appeared in New Rivers Press’ American Fiction, Volume 12: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers.
His story collection was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Vidich received his MFA from Rutgers-Newark, and he is co-founder and editor of Storyville. He lives in lower Manhattan.Prior to turning to writing, Vidich had a distinguished career in music and media at Time Warner, AOL, and Warner Music Group, where he was Executive Vice President in charge of global digital strategy. He was a member of the National Academies committee on The Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era and testified in Washington before rate hearings.
He presently serves as an independent board director, angel investor, and advisor to Internet media companies in video and music. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University where he was a Trustee and received a Distinguished Alumni Award, and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He serves on the boards of directors of Poets and Writers, The New School for Social Research, and the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Read More