Title: The Spike
Author: Arnaud de Borchgrave
de Borchgrave, Arnaud (1980) and Robert Moss. The Spike. New York : Crown Publishers
PR6054.E27 S68 1980
Date Posted: May 5, 2015
De Borchgrave and Moss are, respectively, senior editor of Newsweek and editor of The Economist (London), and they seem genuinely worried in this tale of a reporter’s efforts to expose the deep entrenchment of Soviet misinformation-spreaders in Congress and the U.S. press. But whether or not a reader shares the authors’ Red panic, their story moves with gripping detail and conviction. Their hero is young Bob Hockney, son of a U.S. admiral, who begins as a campus radical at Berkeley, gets hired as a reporter by Barricades, then wins a job with the Washington World and is sent to Saigon—where he’s sucked under the wing of a French news service chief, an unwilling agent of “Directorate A,” the KGB group devoted to planting misinformation in our leading journals and converting Congressmen into pacifist dupes. Hockney is guided by his French friend into information setups and stories that escalate U.S. anti-war sentiment, win him his first Pulitzer, and lead to LBJ’s bow-out. But years later, after the death of his movie-actress girlfriend, a glamorous radical who is kidnapped and brainwashed into being a Patty-Hearst terrorist, Hockney’s eyes are opened by an ex-director of the CIA and he takes a year off to write an in-depth exposé of Directorate A’s activities. But his piece is spiked (killed) by the World, which has its own Soviet dupes in top slots. Throughout the novel we also follow the activities of Barisov, the leading agent for Directorate A who was originally responsible for Hockney’s big stories in Vietnam. And the novel’s two strands converge when Hockney persuades Barisov to defect and gets him up before a Senate investigating committee led by spirited Shamus O’Reilly (read Senator Patrick Moynihan)—Barisov’s testimony results in the exposure of over 1400 spies and dupes in Congress and the press. Exaggerated scare stuff? Perhaps. But de Borchgrave and Moss dramatize the undermining of the press with restraint and an aura of authenticity—and, even if this novel may not succeed in dynamiting what the authors see as complacent U.S. pacifism, it provides a strong, textured narrative for those who prefer suspense fiction that echoes the headlines and explores issues worth arguing about.