Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ted Allebury, The Twentieth Day of January

Ted Allebury, The Twentieth Day of January
Dover Publications 2017 reprint of 1980 original
© Estate of Ted Allebury
ISBN 978-0-486-81922-8

I decided to purchase and read this book largely because of the back cover copy:

Seemingly out of nowhere, wealthy businessman Logan Powell has become President-elect and is weeks away from assuming the most powerful position in the world…British intelligence agent James MacKay uncovers shocking evidence that suggests something might be terribly wrong with the election.  With the help of a reluctant CIA, MacKay sets out…to discover if the unthinkable has occurred:  Is President-elect Powell actually a puppet of the Soviet Union?

It’s almost as if Allebury had a pipeline to the future.

MacKay, as it turns out, is not the major figure in the investigation; a senior CIA official, Peter Nolan, is.  Allebury (whose best book, in my opinion, is The Other Side of Silence, about the Kim Philby fiasco) has written a readable thriller with an all-too-plausible scenario.  Logan Powell is not, exactly, a puppet of the Soviet Union, but, as we quickly learn, so this does not, I think, reveal anything important, his campaign manager (and Chief-of-Staff designee) Andrew Dempsey is a long-term Soviet agent (dating back to the upheavals in France in 1968).

In the course of finding actual evidence of what has happened, several people die and the CIA uses what many of us might regard as somewhat dodgy investigative (break-ins) and interrogation (potent and dangerous drugs) techniques.  This is a quick (218 pages), generally satisfying read.

As is often the case when an English author undertakes to write a story set in and mostly populated by Americans, there are occasional mis-hits with language.  In this case, he has Americans consistently saying “I shall” do something, when anyone I know would say “I will,” or “I’ll.”  And there are some minor mistakes with Congressional positions.  Those slips do not detract from the overall excellence of the work. 

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