Title: Top Secret
Author: W. E. B. Griffin
Griffin, W. E. B. (2014) and William E. Butterworth. Top Secret: A Clandestine Operations Novel. New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons
- Intelligence officers–Fiction.
- Cold War–Fiction.
- FICTION / Action & Adventure.
- FICTION / War & Military.
- FICTION / Suspense.
Date Posted: January 27, 2015
I enjoy reading W. E. B. Griffin’s books. Since a lot of what he writes is in my own professional field, it’s interesting to see how it’s handled by fiction writers.
Opening his Clandestine Operations series, Griffin drafts warriors from his Honor Bound series to confront post–World War II communist aggression.
It’s late 1945. Army Lt. James Cronley, scion of a Texas ranching family, has played a significant role in frustrating die-hard Nazi attempts to cache bomb-grade uranium in Argentina. By direct order of President Harry S. Truman, Cronley’s promoted to captain for his exploits. He returns to Germany and his Army assignment at a Counterintelligence Corps project wringing intel out of “good German” remnants of Abwehr Ost, an intelligence unit that developed critical information about the Soviet Union.
Cronley’s soon trapped in a bureaucratic knife fight among veterans of the Office of Strategic Services (covert operations warriors), CIC loyalists, other Army units, and the FBI. Set mostly at an isolated and abandoned Bavarian monastery and elsewhere in Germany, the narrative’s ripe with meetings, confrontations, lies and subterfuge rather than gunplay. The dialogue is standard Griffin sarcasm and one-upmanship, driving a plot which requires getting a captured Russian agent from the Abwehr Ost camp to Argentina.
Back in the U.S., Cronley elopes with a young American woman he met during his Argentine expedition, but his bride is killed in a car wreck a day later. Less than a week later, he sleeps with a colonel’s wife, and it becomes clear that Griffin’s male-female interactions will be sex rather than romance.
The Griffin style remains immutable: short chapters, macho attitudes, stiff upper lip when threatened, no-sweat heroics, much love for military equipment and weaponry and protocol. That familiarity makes the occasional minor error more notable, and it makes one good-guy escape from the hangman problematic. In keeping with Clandestine Operations’ raison d’être, Griffin’s sketch of the immediate post–WWII bureaucratic territorial clashes has purpose; it’s an outline of how the demobilized OSS hot-war heroes became passionate CIA cold warriors.
Finished Reading December 18, 2014