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I was just seventeen and in my first term at university when I first read this novel shortly after its publication in 1980, and in that callow state I thought it was marvellous, and represented the apotheosis of the political thriller. Its authors, Robert Moss and Arnaud de Borchgrave, had both been successful journalists during the 1960s and 1970s; the former was an Australian who travelled the globe reporting from a wide range of countries, while the latter the scion of an aristocratic Belgian family who had worked as a columnist for Newsweek and The Washington Times. In 1980 they pooled their experiences to write this novel, drawing upon their respective experiences flying around the world to cover (or, indeed, uncover) a story. Of course, garnering the story is only the first step in the journalist’s work.

Having written a story, a journalist has to submit it to rigorous verification, particularly when the article is potentially politically sensitive. Even when that step has been successfully negotiated, the editor must be won over. The ‘spike’ in the title is a reference to the editor’s power of veto that might be applied to any article, either because the editor remains unconvinced of the alleged unassailable rectitude of the piece, or because its thrust is counter to the publication’s political inclinations.

In 1968, Bob Hockney is a left-leaning recent graduate who has already established a name for himself through a series of articles published in the university press that have attacked the establishment, and generally undermined any levels of authority with which he came into contact. Taken on by Barricades, a leading radical publication, Hockney travels to Paris just after Les Evenements, the violent student demonstrations against the government of President Charles de Gaulle. While there he believes he has shown great dexterity in cultivating valuable contacts in both the the higher echelons of the French press community and also the Russian embassy. He does not realise that he is the contact being cultivated as a potentially conduit for the dissemination of stories of questionable veracity, that will portray Soviet activities throughout Europe and South East Asia in a more favourable light. As we would say today, he is being gulled into reporting fake news.

The action moves around the world. From Paris, Hockney is reassigned to Vietnam in the period immediately after the Tet Offensive. As Hockney’s reputation continues to soar, he becomes aware of a potential Soviet plan to assume wider domination of the world by 1985, and struggles to find a way of credibly alerting the authorities, who all seem resolved towards wilful ignorance. Meanwhile, he has become a threat to those plans, and his life is in danger.

Unfortunately, either the book has not aged well or my literary tastes and expectations have developed. Whichever is the case (or, indeed perhaps both), I found rereading this book very disappointing. The characterisation is very week, and the plot, which had seemed so engrossing to my teenage self, is very disjointed and fanciful. Of course, in the interim, exposure to the works of writers such as John le Carré has changed my expectations of a thriller. Verisimilitude seems far more important today than was the case nearly forty years ago, and, perhaps ironically as that is one of the key props on which the plot was founded, was woefully absent from this book. ( )
2 vota Eyejaybee | Nov 30, 2018 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Arnaud de Borchgraveautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Borchgrave, Arnaud deautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Borchgrave, Arnaud deautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
De Borchgrave, Arnaudautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Moss, Robertautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Moss, RobertAutorautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Martin, Jean-PaulTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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