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.
The premise of this thriller is that during the Cold War, a high-ranking officer in the Soviet intelligence agency KGB conceives and carries out a plan to subvert a young American destined for high political office. If the plan succeeds, the young man will ascend to the presidency and will pave the way for a communist takeover of the U.S. government. Peter, the officer who conceives the plot, acts without the knowledge or approval of his superiors in the KGB.
Peter’s agent in the United States is known as Dmitri; he is the narrator of the novel. His orders are to identify a young man who has demonstrated the qualities necessary for political success in the United States: charm, sex appeal, ruthlessness, the ability to take up and abandon positions on important issues without appearing to be weak or unprincipled, and a quality or a pattern of behavior that will make him vulnerable to blackmail. One of Dmitri’s American agents, a professor at Columbia University named Alan, comes up with a candidate in one of his students, Jack Adams.
Jack’s mother was a nurse in the naval hospital where John F. Kennedy was treated during World War II, and she has led her son to believe that Kennedy was his real father. Jack is amoral and without principles, sexually attractive and highly sexually active (although he never bothers to engage in intercourse with a woman more than once), and blessed with a quick but shallow intelligence. Peter tests and observes the young man and gives his approval to the choice, giving Dmitri the job of controlling Jack Adams. As a reward for discovering Adams, Alan is later sent to Cuba, where he is executed at Peter’s orders.
Before he is dispatched, Alan is ordered by Dmitri to arrange a fellowship of some kind that will send Jack to Europe, preferably to...
(The entire section is 2,250 words.)