Readers are quite used to hearing there's a witty, literate and suspenseful new spy thriller from the editor of National Review — but this is not a newly discovered or posthumous entry in the late, great William F. Buckley's famed Blackford Oakes series.
You might be surprised — and, if you pick up the book, pleased — to find that NR editor Rich Lowry learned about more than editorializing from his close association with the father of conservative journalism. His new novel, Banquo's Ghosts (Vanguard, $25.95), with co-author Keith Korman, is the season's most pleasant surprise.
Peter Johnson is a boozy columnist for The Crusade, a left-wing magazine run by his "first ex-wife," Josephine von Hildebrand, a rich Marxist who throws celebrated dinner parties for New York's elites. Johnson gets to be part of the radical chic by writing new installments of "Why they Hate Us" whenever Josephine beckons.
But watching the Twin Towers collapse from his fancy Brooklyn Heights apartment window with his daughter — who could have been working in the World Trade Center that day — changes Peter. An unplanned blurting of truth at a college forum leads to Peter being recruited by Stewart Bancroft (aka Banquo), an old-school CIA spymaster who has used the system exposed by Ishmael Jones in The Human Factor to defend America, rather than make money and accrue power.
Banquo encourages Peter to continue his anti-America rants as the perfect cover for a dangerous mission: using his upcoming trip to whitewash Iran's nuclear program to assassinate Iran's top nuclear scientist.
Think Christopher Hitchens disguising his political awakening and using Katrina Vanden Heuval and The Nation as cover for a CIA mission, and you get the spirit of Banquo's Ghosts just about right.
Lowry and Korman have great fun with the media, lampooning MSNBC's Chris Matthews and CNN's Larry King by name. Banquo's Ghosts also works as a serious thriller, with accounts of torture and a chilling terrorist plot that reminds us there is a serious world being badly covered by an unserious media. Banquo's Ghosts is hopefully the beginning of a long-running series — perhaps with Shakespeare-themed titles as its trademark.