The fictitious memoir of an unlikely foreign spy planted in Washington, D.C., in the years after World War II
Recruited by a foreign power in postwar Paris and sent to Washington, Winston Bates is without training or talent. He might be a walking definition of the anti-spy. Yet he makes his way onto the staff of the powerful Senator Richard Russell, head of the Armed Services Committee. From that perch, Bates has extensive and revealing contacts with the Dulles brothers, Richard Bissell, Richard Helms, Lyndon Johnson, Joe Alsop, Walter Lippman, Roy Cohn, and even Ollie North - to name but a few of the historical players in the American experience Winston befriends - and haplessly betrays for a quarter century.
A comedy of manners set within the circles of power and information, Peter Warner's The Mole is a witty social history of Washington in the latter half of the 20th century that presents the question: How much damage can be done by the wrong person in the right place at the right time?
Written as Winston’s memoir, The Mole details the American Century from an angle definitely off center. From Suez, the U-2 Crash, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, and Watergate, the novel is richly and factually detailed, marvelously convincing, and offers the listener a slightly subversive character searching for identity and meaning (as well as his elusive handler) in a heady time during one of history's most defining eras.
A well-crafted, chatty novel which intricately mixes fact and fiction. Mr. Warner is gifted in character development and description. His protagonist is an interesting character who is not altogether likeable but for whom the reader will have reason for admiration.
This will be particularly interesting to those who are familiar with the Cold War era.
The narration is perfect!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This is quite an extraordinary spy novel. Winston Bates is sort of a brilliant Forrest Gump, a man with a talent not only for finding himself at the center of every failed Cold War clandestine operation from Suez to Iran Contra but for inadvertently causing some of them. He knows every high level player in US intelligence. He trades in gossip and the funny thing is, nobody in Washington seems to be able to keep a secret. Bates' photographic memory and his success on the social scene place him in the perfect places to gather information. At every turn, he tries to do the right thing but for 40 years he has no idea why he is spying or what he is supposed to accomplish. Peter Warner's Winston Bates manages to capture the supreme absurdity that I remember so vividly from the Cold War.
BTW, a lot of this novel is realized in conversations. The reader's performance brought all the characters to life, but especially Winston Bates.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This is the story of Winston Bates, a cynical liberal arts major with a photographic memory.
Living the Bohemian life style in Paris in the late 1940s, a casual meeting at a party and his exceptional memory leads to an opportunity to deliver packages for an embassy.
Winston's package delivery job leads to jobs in Washington DC,, where for the next 30 years Winston participates in and more or less controls many of the major events and crisis's of the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan administrations. All from behind the scenes.
Winston knows pretty much everyone who is anyone in Washington in those days. In general Winston is a not very likable person. David Ledoux perfectly reads the book in the slightly nasal, whiney, voice of the oh-so-superior life long graduate student. Anyone who has spent time in a college will recognize the voice of Winston.
The production quality of the audio presentation is excellent. There are no distracting cuts, breathing, or changes in timbre or pace.
If you are, as I am, a student of the Cold War you will enjoy this book. Of course you must suspend a lot of disbelieve, but that's ok. It's a fun review of Cold War history and there are many amusing moments along the way.
If you've never heard of Francis Gary Powers, if you don't know what the Berlin Airlift was, if you've never heard of the Bay of Pigs, then you probably can skip this book.
If those subjects peak your interest, then buy this book!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
The concept and twists in this book were intriguing but the payoff was disappointing. In fact, there didn't really seem to be any payoff at all.
Would you ever listen to anything by Peter Warner again?
Not sure. Maybe.
What about David Ledoux’s performance did you like?
Ledoux's performance was age-appropriate for the main character - who tells his story in the first person.
Did The Mole inspire you to do anything?
Any additional comments?
An elevator pitch for this book may be CIA meets Forrest Gump. The main character is involved with, a catalyst for, or on the front lines of most critical Cold War events from the late 1940's through the mid-70's. However, the story is wrapped in a mcguffin that lasts too long and when the mcguffin doesn't payoff you realize that all that is left is a series of vignettes around Cold War events with nothing tying them together.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This books was full of great detail and historical interest but I was ultimately left feeling that it lacked any sense of purpose. Perhaps this was intended on the part of the author as a reflection of the characters seeming drift into obscurity but the general lack of suspense or climax made it difficult to maintain interest.
The narration was solid although here again the mood remained flat and struggled to lift the material.