The Defection of A. J. Lewinter Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
The reissue of this 1973 Cold War gem comes on the heels of Littell's recent hardcover thriller The Company. Set in the early 1970s, the spy thriller-cum-black comedy begins when A.J. Lewinter, an eccentric American engineer specializing in nose cones for ballistic missiles, decides to defect to the Soviet Union. Such a high-level defection is unprecedented, and each side suspects the other of something fishy. A hilarious contest ensues as they try to outconnive each other. On the American side is a coldly libidinous intelligence agent named Diamond (when a mistress asks him what he would have done if she hadn't passed a security background check, he says, "I would have taken you to bed-but I wouldn't have talked to you"). His KGB analogue is the nervous Pogodin (self-described as "one-quarter Marxist, one-quarter humanist, and one-half bureaucrat"), who knows too well the consequences of any mistake. The book paints a bleak view of both sides of the Cold War divide: the socialist dream has given way to a police state plagued by chronic food shortages and ruled by an elite oligarchy that gets the few decent cars and apartments in Moscow, while on democracy's home front, race riots and antiwar protests multiply. Concise, smart and funny, this novel turns Cold War spy cliches on their head. Though the ambiguous ending no longer terrifies, this book still packs a punch and seems prescient to boot. Those who only know Littell's more recent works should enjoy this fast, fun trip into the past.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Robert Littell was born, raised, and educated in New York. A former Newsweek editor specializing in Soviet affairs, he left journalism in 1970 to write fiction full time. Connoisseurs of the spy novel have elevated Robert Littell to the genre's highest ranks, and Tom Clancy wrote that “if Robert Littell didn’t invent the spy novel, he should have.” He is the author of fifteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Company and Legends, the 2005 L.A. Times Book Award for Best Thriller/Mystery. He currently lives in France.
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If this book is a satire it is drained of humor both by the events in the book and by our understanding of how much has changed in the world since this book was written. Still, the book remains timely and the complete waste of time and lives made me more than a little sad about the state of international relations that exists to this day.
I have to admit I started the book with a feeling of Oh Hum another attempt at a spy book. Up until that time the only author I felt captured this area was John Le Carre. Now I have Littell.