Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finished Yesterday: "The Venona Cable" by Bent Ghelfi

Finished Yesterday: The Venona Cable by Brent Ghelfi, 2009, 9780805088946.

Man do I like this guy's Volk books. Intricate plotting with violent action. Good characters and neat introduction to a different view of world events, politics, and realpolitick from the Russian side.

Volk tracks down the bad guy from Volk's Shadow in Macao and ventilates his head. Volk returns and is arrested over a murdered American found in Volk's unused porn production warehouse. Volk is told to investigate by his boss, the General, and others. Volk finds a connection between his missing father, the dead American, and a 60 year old espionage cable sent from Washington to the Kremlin. Volk was orphaned when his mother died in childbirth and his Air Force father disappeared. Was his father a defector to the U.S., and therefore a traitor, or was he a double-agent?

Political maneuvering among Russian government bigwigs. Volk heads to the U.S. and is shadowed by a counter intelligence agent. Double agents in the U.S. have their strings pulled by Russian handlers. Main double-agent is really on the U.S.'s side. Volk finds out more about his father who was murdered a few years before. Volk gets in fights. Volk is sneaky. Volk is repeatedly stymied. Volk thinks far ahead. Volk perseveres.

Thought and comments:
1. Once again Ghelfi pulls an Ellroy and puts together a really well plotted out novel with red herrings and deceptions for Volk to work through.
2. Characters present several competing views of history.
Right wing side: A CIA agent's defense of the Hollywood Blacklist against commies and support of McCarthy. American Commie Party really was an organ of Comintern (and whatever succeeded it). Hollywood complicit with the gulags who killed their Russian peers in the arts.
Left wing: Abuses by the U.S. government conveniently overlooked. Volk's defense of Cuba for it's high education levels and successful health care. Volk's and others commentary of recent shredding of the Constitution.
3. Scheming and deception by the Russians as a way of life that transferred to all levels of espionage operations against everyone involved.
4. Right winger accusing adversary of "moral equivalency".
5. As an author, what accusations does Ghelfi receive on "which side are you on anyway?' People can read Venona either way. Some thrillers are jingoistic and clearly "America, Fuck Yeah!" but this has a Russian hero.
6. Russian hero of the novel is working against the U.S. How cheer for the guy to uncover a spy working for the U.S? In the end I think Ghelfi makes a compromise with Volk destroying spy information that could hurt the Russians but Volk does so for personal reasons.
7. Change in title from previous two novels.
8. Constant paranoia by Volk. Constant attempts to control facial expressions and body language to not give anything away and to mislead adversaries.
9. Nice compliment to the espionage novels of Furst and the political plotlines of Eisler.
10. An attempted assassination outside Los Alamos reminded me of an attempted assassination in Restless.
11. I remember very, very little about the couple of days we spent in Los Alamos in '84.

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