By Tony Russell


Charles McCarry penned a series of espionage thrillers several decades ago. His reputation seems to have vanished into thin air, but at the time there were reviewers who praised him as a writer surpassing John Le Carré. I hadn't thought of McCarry's work for years, until events of the last two election campaigns triggered a faint memory, sending me rummaging through dusty shelves in search of The Better Angels.

Published in 1979, McCarry's The Better Angels is set "in the last decade of the twentieth century." Like Orwell's 1984, it appears to have been bleakly prescient about the near-future, if slightly off mark with its calendar.

In brief, the story turns on a presidential election in the United States and a terrorist plot launched from the Middle East. The election, close and bitterly contested, pits a hard-right conservative against a liberal populist. The conservative candidate, former president Franklin Mallory, had installed centralized computer voting in his first term, using conventional telephone circuits. Although the network is incomplete, the largest cities in key states such as New York, Michigan, and California are on board.

Horace Hubbard, whose half-brother is chief aide to Lockwood, the current president and other candidate, has a lover who is a computer expert with U.S. intelligence. He sounds her out on the possibility of using her access and skill to swing the election. She approaches it as an intellectual challenge.

"It's possible, then?" he said. "I mean, possible with no conceivable trace being left?" "I've already said so." "You don't mind using the machines for this?" Rose laughed. "It'll do them good. They'll have to stretch a little."

Read the rest at tonyrussell.blogspot.com

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