The year is 1964. Faced with a hard-hitting presidential campaign and a deteriorating situation in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson dispatches Oakes and a swashbuckling soldier of fortune named Tucker on secret missions to Southeast Asia. Tucker is to figure out how to interdict military traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Oakes is to supervise a secret operation in the Gulf of Tonkin, an operation that will give Johnson the excuse he needs for a greater U.S. military role in Vietnam.
Filled with the intrigue, wit, and historical detail that have distinguished the previous novels of the series, Tucker's Last Stand is William F. Buckley, Jr. at his inimitable best.
"Tense, chilling, unflaggingly lively." (Wall Street Journal)
I've read or listened to most of the Blackford Oakes series and this is the weakest. I listen to these novels more for Buckley's description of the surrounding historical events than for the stories themselves which I've always found to be mediocre. However, the story in Tucker's Last Stand is not mediocre, it is non-existent and to a person the characters are lifeless.
One thing I've never liked about Oakes novels is why Buckley seems to insist on putting Oakes into bed with women, and especially with prostitutes. We get a heavy dose of this in Tuckers Last Stand. I don't get it, these sections add absolutely nothing to the book and make me like/respect the characters less. I think he put these scenes into Tuckers Last Stand because he needed to add pages. And what is up with Buckley's fascination with prostitutes? Does he thinks because 007 sleeps around Oakes and his friends have to? But 007 never paid for it!
Another thing which baffles me about Oakes novels is his relationship with Sally. I won't give anything away, but in this novel this relationship goes from annoying to baffling and in Tucker's Last Stand the sections with Sally add absolutely nothing to the book or series. Again, more pages needed by his publisher? The relationship between Blackford and Sally evokes absolutely nothing emotionally in me beside perhaps mild contempt. In fact, I set the narrator to 2x speed during these sections.
Lastly, the novel's namesake "Tucker" is an unconvincing amalgamation of cliches. Most damning is that by the time the novel ends I really don't care what happens to him because the character never comes alive for me. Of course he too is a womanizer.
The most interesting parts of the the book which may make it worth a listen are the scenes with LBJ and Goldwater. This novel gave me a better sense of both men and helped me to better understand how we slipped into a war our leadership never truly had the will to win.
I will say that I liked the narrator. While I'm no connoisseur of accents, the accents he used for the various characters made it much easier to follow the story.