Thursday, April 23, 2020
The Poet Laureate Of The CIA: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On A Look Back At Spy Novelist Charles McCarry
The Washington Times published my On Crime column on the late spy novelist Charles McCarry.
I wonder what the late, great spy novelist Charles McCarry would make of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Chinese connection, be it the Wuhan “wet markets” or the science labs near Wuhan.
McCarry, who died last year at the age 88, set his 2013 novel “The Shanghai Factor” in China.
“China, hidden and mysterious, has always interested me,” McCarry said in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly. “I’ve written about it in other novels before ‘The Shanghai Factor,’ and in order to save the life of my series hero, Paul Christopher, locked the poor fellow up for 10 years in a one-prisoner jail in a desert in Xianjing province.”
In “The Shanghai Factor,” the narrator, a 29-year-old American intelligence officer in China, explained how he first encountered a Chinese woman named Mei. “One day, as I pedaled along Zhonghan Road, she crashed her bicycle into mine. In those days I was new to the life as a spy, so my paranoia wasn’t yet fully developed, but I immediately suspected that this was no accident. My first thought was that Chinese counterintelligence had sniffed me out and sent this temptress to entrap me. Then I took a look at the temptress and wondered why I should mind.”
Later in the novel, McCarry writes, “I was sure from the start that she was on duty, that she reported everything, that she had bugged my room. The funny thing was, she never asked for information, never probed.”
Mei, McCarry wrote, showed no curiosity about his past history or life.
“Probably this was because she had been briefed about this matter by the folks at Guoanbu, the Chinese intelligence service (within Headquarters called “MSS,” short for Ministry of State Security) and had no reason to ask.”
I enjoyed “The Shanghai Factor,” as I have his other novels, including “The Tears of Autumn” which in my view is his finest novel. This brilliant novel covers the assassination of President Kennedy and the Vietnam War, and although I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy he portrays in the novel, I recommend highly this most interesting and insightful spy novel.
McCarry knew something about espionage, having served as a deep cover CIA officer for 10 years in the 1950s and 1960s. The New Republic called Charles McCarry “the poet laureate of the CIA.” He has also been called the American John le Carre, a spy novelist he is often compared to.
You can read the rest of the column via the below link: