Flashback: A good spy thriller novel

thec

I’ll start with a brief review of “The Company”, a 2002 novel and my second by Robert Littell, the first having been “The men we became” which i read back in 2004. The Company is a book about the history of the CIA and is set in the period after WW2 up until the 90s. It is a massive tome at almost 900 pages. I took a look at it’s size and cover art, leafed through and read the inscriptions then bought it for a song, singing in my heart as i remembered John Barron’s classic “The KGB” and hoping for a similar treat. I walked away from the seller, a young woman, without looking back just in case she had made a mistake about the price i bought it for. Given the saga it tells, it is a book to read at a brisk pace. If you are into the big landscape, epic novels, the ones where the characters are well-matured, this is one not to miss.

There is the Berlin station chief, Harvey Torriti quite something of a sipper himself and the people who form his staff. The plot is typical of spy novels in the way it weaves events into other events and there is deft storytelling end to end with the usual clock and dagger action. I like how Jack meets his future wife and i like the way the characters are developed from the beginning. There is Leon Kritzy and the Russian student who after an education at ivy-league Yale starts work for the KGB under an alias, complete with the demeanor and all the spyware, you know, the transmitters, secret communication techniques-here it is an interesting invisible ink which appears when you hold up the paper to a fluorescent bulb.

Leon Kritzy became an agent of the KGB, traitorously and throughout the novel is working as a mole in the company. There is the sad part about the flight from America to Moscow and the marching students in war-time Russia protesting against military deployment in the streets. The part that touched me was when one of his daughters goes looking for him in Russia. There is the part where the CIA head has been saying there are moles within the agency and been dismissed all along as a paranoid, past his prime and in need of a vacation. But Jim Angleton knows kritzy is a mole and gets him arrested and held incommunicado in some safehouse where he goes to interrogate him periodically. Littell masterfully paints a grim and sinister piece of this where they are holding Kritzy, torturing him in an effort to break him-the lights overhead are too bright, never go off night or day. He is deprived of sleep in order to disorient him . When he asks for a drink of water, Jim tells him to drink from the toilet bowl. At first he refuses but eventually does drink from it, left with no option. He doesn’t crack in spite of all this and a frustrated Jim is forced to release him. The story traverses the globe, through the rugged and dangerous countryside of Afghanistan, where the roads are manned at roadblocks by militiamen, to a meeting in the woods, to Cuba and the botched landing of the Bay of pigs. There is action galore for 900 pages.

Save for Le Carre, there are few spy novel writers with as much depth, and who write a well-nuanced novel such as this one of Littell. The enjoyment i derived from the experience of this read can only be compared to Ken Follett’s classic “Eye Of the needle” this one about a formidable German spy named Henry Faber who is sent to spy against the British during WW2. There is the unforgettable part where Faber, armed with the roll of film of a fake military base and all the works, sets sail in a stolen vessel to rendezvous with a German U-Boat out in the sea, where a violent tempest tosses the vessel this way and that, with Faber fighting to control it, using all of his strength in the effort, “cursing all of England….” so writes Follett.

I do not read books these days, they are hard to come by anymore but when i do read, i must set out convinced it will be time well spent. Which i suppose leaves one with the option of going tech with a kindle. I will be back.

2017, here we go

trump-inaug

Donald Trump taking the oath of office. online image

Jan 20th marked a turning point in America’s history. The world watched as Donald John Trump, billionaire businessman, economist and real estate developer was sworn in as the 45th POTUS. People who are politically savvy had foreseen it and were not surprised whatsoever. They resorted to playing the waiting game. Waiting to hear about the grand balls, the glitter, the soft laughter floating down from DC’s hotel rooftops on the cold, dry nights. The ladies, the chauffeurs, the doormen bowing with curtsy, the clatter of high heels, the young men taking charge of the ballroom floors. Anything else here?

It is so easy to see where his empire, his fat wallet factored into the equation of how to obtain a win.  Hillary Clinton had experience running public office, she also had impeccable timing, competent staff and trod well and carefully. Almost to carefully for a man such as trump, with his business man grip and sure-footed manner. To some voters, he may have seemed a refreshing sight, far from the usual back-slapping Washington political bigwigs with their scripted tight-lipped style.

Let us pause and consider the man’s journey up to this point. He was born and bred in Queensbridge, New York. He graduated with a degree in economics from one of America’s most respected business schools, Wharton School of Finance and Business, University of Pennsylvania.New Yorkers have a reputation for being tenacious hustlers and a young Trump, home for the holidays, quickly saw the opportunities while working in his father’s   builder|developer business. All it took for him after graduation was to put the lessons he learnt in practice and with his business acumen, the rest is history.

The point of this article is to sort of theorize about where America is heading with Trump as Commander-in-Chief. Will the ship sail sedately with him captaining it gallantly or what’s it going to be like these four years starting Friday 20th January 2017? He has began with a repeal of Obamacare as had been promised on the campaign trail. A lot of immigrants are wary. Their worries stem from Trump’s  rhetoric on immigration. He promised to seal the southern border. His attitude about non-whites, the poor and minority groups  is a little worrisome and the process he is going to initiate to “make America great again” is at this point unknown.

As a third world citizen, i am concerned about America’s foreign policy towards us. Will it be more balanced, more just? It is too soon to tell at this time. The world needs peace, a hell lot. Obama came in and tried to repair America’s tarnished image while employing the use of legalistic language. He travelled overseas to several countries. He addressed a mammoth stadium crowd in Germany. He hosted many dignitaries at the white House. He showed diplomatic flare handling the affairs of state. I think he did a great mop job cleaning up some of the mess Bush left in 2008.

Let us begin 2017 with hope and fasten our seat belts. The man at the helm knows that his work is cut out for him. Hopefully. Hail to the chief!

 

silver fox

 

“quotes: a glorious glimpse into a reading past”

“the beautiful ones are not yet born
but will be born
when the arrow of God
strikes the rising sun
the river between will overflow
and a child of two worlds
will eat a grain of wheat
the girls at war will
taste the blade among the boys
after a walk in the night

-Chinua Achebe, pioneer AWS

“and there i saw
the beginnings of dark imaginings
of felony,
the stratagems of kings
_sir Geoffrey Chaucer

“frailty…
thy name is woman”
edmond dantes musing about mercedes
_the count of monte cristo

“i am not very tall,
but well made
in good condition and obviously a personality”
_Balzac de honore
“so where is the cotton king?
perhaps this is he,
with his lean mule,
fighting a hard battle with debt”
_W.E.B Dubois “the souls of black folks”

“personally, i vote labor
but by all means
go into my kitchens
there perhaps you will find one of your kind”
_Lord Mountbatten,to a “lowly” Tory party canvasser

Alright,

…..here is  the one i like. The best, most deadly and def. most nostalgic of thoughts; “the poor man is the man without dreams”. ha, carry on dreamer.

it’s been a blast thru December, really, please excuse the incompetence-Happy new year, remember the love. i love you all. got to go.bye

 

 

 

 

 

A Woman to Have

just came across your piece. fresh and breezy writing, took me to the skies!

riveticus

Where do I start?

Oh yes! From the beginning – the one I know! The one that could have passed for happiness or joy, if only her eyes were not too eloquent, so as to reveal an idly lurking grief! If only her smile didn’t pan off as muted; silenced like a two-month-old baby gagged with a pacifier.

But even though she smiled like a flower blossoming to life, she remained very close to tears.

There she sat under the light on a pale plastic seat, her hands rested helplessly on a cracked third generation table that barely stood still.

Time had been cruel to it but it still tolerated all tribes of beer, Even impatient horny drunks! A rainbow of cracks formed its tough look but there was a lingering sadness foaming on her silhouettes that made it hard to believe she has known happiness before.

See, the smile on…

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The main course

worldinperil

image courtesy NPR

A world in peril. Rebellious winds and persistent rainfall that foils your plans. A long agonizing hiatus away from my blog and a spanking new laptop i had just got from my sister. huff! Unexpected events that yanked me away from some rich plans i had, all of this on my mind and the sojourn in a desolate hopeless little town where men sit on shop verandas from morning to dusk-when the shops open. They sit there, sheltered from the sun sipping gin, playing some cards or other game, ludo-the old ones prefer only to talk to each other, looking at the road, watching chickens crossing the road and young boys riding bikes past; to Isimba  HEP project being built by the chinese. They wave at people they know and take their time talking to strangers they encounter in the area, a dusty town of old folk and young men who have come to find work.

It’s a drab life out here save for the cacophony of jukebox  bars and a wooden movie ‘theater’ with crackling sound and occasional staccato of gunfire emanating from the kind of movies popular with village youth yearning for excitement. They are war movie buffs. A friend of mine invited me out there and i stayed for a month, eating an unvarying diet of cornmeal bread and vegetables and beans. The weather changes have severely hurt the farmers all around. All the seeds they sowed dried up or sprouted but are now stunted with yellowing leaves. The only plant to survive is a sugar plantation next to the dam being built. The Chinese at the site like to eat pork and to smoke. They smoke all the time.

I thought in the world where we live, people are beginning to adopt to frugal habits. You know when you walk around with a righteous feeling looking around you to catch someone doing evil. It is hypocrisy to believe you are connected to mother earth then go behind other folks backs and snatch it’s prized babies and take them away somewhere to butcher and make stew out of them. For health reasons. Why pick on the precious Pangolin, why now? How about considerately developing a taste for some of those numerous bird species? Over time, who knows, you might come to love it so much your body takes a liking for it it craves and starts asking for it. Perhaps you might start raising them or turn it into sport hunting like they do, the English and have full fun. The Chinese, billions of them, held it down as a conservative society for a long time and had much respect as conscientious livers but some devil got into them and they have become materialistic and now love  living life lavishly. So they say in the papers.

But shouldn’t one ask themselves why as tasty as pork is and quite so dear especially to my country folk we call it ‘the national delicacy’-have the good old Chinese picked on the prized and rare Pangolin for choice meat regarded very highly now we either figure out plans how to ruin their party by killing their appetite for it or find somewhere to hide our precious Pangolins. Alas, the wise men from the east, now avid global investors so prized by government keep strolling in through our airport lobby, carrying a lot of love in their hearts! Woe to my clan, that’s our totem god knows where it will end. The Pangolin is scaled, very rare and shy and is an endangered species now being eyed by a burgeoning Chinese middle class gourmand eye. The scales and skin are used for medicine in china. I know you have heard a bowl of it so i will shhh. In other sad news, much of the old gold is gone or ailing, it bruises my heart and they are too many to name. Carry on brave ones, the sun is a mighty force and will not leave us soon, stay blessed.

The year that was

Happy new year…i heard the words it was nice like warm chocolate and went quietly over and here is 2016. i cautiously peel the page on the new one and understand it could well be the pet with unknown habits. How was 2015? How did it end? Did it end on a note of triumph, mischief, or was it all a tragic disgraceful event where you ended up bent into compliance. Did it leave a bad aftertaste that made you regret allowing people to ride roughshod over you when you allowed them unfettered freedoms? (Do not wring your hands, go on and like the post).

The new year is still too new to fret about but i warn you, i so badly want fresh things in this one here. I want to feel the keen side of 2016, the biting, cutting sarcastic side of it. I read too much muck last year i think i caught the bug for a dose of some feel good hormone…i need plenty of gimme-that type of moments… i need sleaze!

I dont want to read anything to make me snort or look at anything that gives play to whatever impulse tickles my conscience without really having the slightest idea about how good it’s going to get . I want the stuff!

In the year, connivers have it out there will be enough to smile about and most will be busy trying to locate the tastiest morsel. I dont expect it to be laced with too much of shock value, just a morose dang sort of affair, something to keep ’em twitching. I need a sharp little bark in the brain

In the great new year is to be expected just th’ right sort of sleaze, if you get the drift, something to keep the socks dry but sobering enough to remind us how the mighty have fallen in the past and a cautionary tale to those too quick with a snide remark or a chiding smile. You too, are not immune.

So in the new year, be gruff and earthy, demand with righteousness. Let them feel they are a-comming on to you, be smug and content, share, learn to share-i will be on this end waiting with itchy toes. Pass on and foster not anyone’s bad habits. Let us all thrive and live long.

2016 will be the great new year we’ll get to find out nothing lasts forever, everything good comes in small doses. If someone loves you, it’s only right to love ’em back, that’s the spirit so do the dew, don’t sweat the small stuff, let us all care and peaceful journey.

Are You An Anthropocentrist?

Laura Grace Weldon

animal intelligence, anthropocentrism, Paradise, by Gillis d’Hondecoeter circa 1575

When I was growing up we were taught humans were at the top of every chart, far superior to all other living beings. Our textbooks, illustrated with stereotypical images of “cave men,” proved the assertion with a long list of what our species could do that others could not. The list was so smug that I was a bit embarrassed on behalf of my fellow homo sapiens. A skeptic even then, I thought the list was somewhat prejudicial. Worse, it didn’t acknowledge what feels obvious to young children, that we are all things and all things are us.

I don’t for a moment dismiss our many human accomplishments—among them language, science, the arts, and shared rules meant to advance mutual compassion. I simply mean to point out that we’re not better, we’re different.

Besides, what I was taught as a kid doesn’t really hold up. Here are…

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