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ISBN 0143038850 / 9780143038856 / 0-14-303885-0
Publisher Penguin Books
› Find signed collectible books: 'The Company'
Penzler Pick, March 2002: Robert Littell, long known as one of the best writers of fiction about the Cold War, is not as well known as John le Carré or the great Charles McCarry, but nevertheless has a devoted following among serious aficionados of the literary spy novel. His latest book, which runs close to 900 pages and covers the years 1950 to 1995, is an ambitious one that is destined to become the definitive novel about the CIA.
The historical events of that crucial period are well known to most of us. The end of World War II and the division of Germany into sectors by the Allies laid the groundwork for the Cold War and the rise of the OSS, a wartime branch of the American government, into one of the most powerful tools of intelligence.
The involvement of that agency in the defection of Burgess and MacLean from Britain to the Soviet Union; the Suez Canal crisis, which ended Britain's role as a superpower; the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis; the arming of rebels in Afghanistan to repel the encroaching Soviet forces; the Gulf War--all are well documented here.
All these events, which had such major consequences for our own history and that of the world, were well known to, organized by, or played out with the full cooperation of the CIA. These, as well as such minor events as defections on both sides, are the backdrop to this novel which stars a large cast of characters who we get to know as young men and women recruited while still in college. Their personal and public lives are followed as they rise through the ranks of the Company, and we know that one of them is a mole. We don't know who it is any more than the CIA does, and it will take years to unmask the traitor.
In the meantime, we have become involved not only with Littell's fictional characters, but also with some of the real people who inhabited that world: William F. Buckley Jr., G. Gordon Liddy, William Casey--and we are privy to conversations in both the Kennedy and Reagan Oval Offices.
We also know by the end of this exciting story that the fight is not always the good fight. Compromises are made, mistakes happen, and pragmatism wins out over idealism. We do not live in a perfect world, but it's the only one we have and it is that way because of the events in this book. Don't let its size deter you. This is nothing less than a stunning historical document. --Otto Penzler [via]