Lucky Bastard

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jack Adams is a young man of political potential who believes himself to be the illegitimate son of John F. Kennedy. He is selected by an American professor who is a Soviet agent as a candidate for subversion by an agent of the KGB known only as Peter, who plans to promote Adams’ political career to the point of managing to have him elected president. Adams will then be expected to facilitate the conversion of the United States to communism.

Adams is vulnerable to Peter’s plot because of his rampant sexuality, and the initial stage in his subversion is a relationship with Greta, a young German woman in rebellion against her wealthy parents and a member of the infamous terrorist group, the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Like everyone else involved in the early stages of Adams’ entrapment, Greta is killed once her usefulness is at an end.

Peter has Adams brought to the Soviet Union where his career is outlined for him and he is shown the blackmail material which forces him to agree. The bulk of the novel is devoted to the rise of Adams’ political career, his marriage to another Soviet agent, and his friendship with Danny Miller, who becomes his law partner. Supported financially and in other ways by the KGB and by liberal dupes of communism, he ascends the political ladder, ultimately winning election to the presidency, only to have the plot foiled by Miller’s wife, who has always hated him.

Charles McCarry’s LUCKY BASTARD has all the necessary elements of a thriller: high suspense, violent action, deep-dyed villains, and plenty of sex. Unlike the source of its central premise, Richard Condon’s THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1959), however, it lacks sharp-edged satiric humor.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, May 15, 1998, p. 1565.

Business Week. August 24, 1998, p. 14F.

The Economist. CCCXLVII, September 19, 1998, p. 99.

Library Journal. CXXIII, June 15, 1998, p. 107.

National Review. L, August 17, 1998, p. 43.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, August 16, 1998, p. 7.

Newsweek. CXXXII, July 20, 1998, p. 69.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, May 25, 1998, p. 61.

The Wall Street Journal. July 24, 1998, p. W10.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, July 12, 1998, p. 3.