Tucker’s Last Stand

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Blackford Oakes is definitely a veteran of the morally ambivalent world of international espionage. As he enters his second decade of service with the CIA, however, he is faced with transformational crises, personal and professional. In short, Blackford is compelled to consider hanging up his cloak and dagger.

On the personal level, Senora Sally Morales de Partridge is nearing the end of the obligatory year of mourning for her late husband Antonio. “Blackie” Oakes must needs make a decision. He was unable to commit matrimony with Sally, and she married another. Now he must indeed fish or cut bait: He must “divorce” one or the other—Sally or the CIA.

At the same time, Oakes finds himself drawn to his new partner, Tucker Montana, as well as inextricably involved in his considerable difficulties. Montana is a man of many parts. An integral part of the team which developed the atomic bomb, Montana suffered a traumatic blow to his moral center when the destructive potential of the bomb became fully apparent. He fled first to a monastery and later to countless battlefields, ranging from Korea to the Philippines, as well as to an impressive number of bedrooms. But it is questionable if he can survive the ambiguities of Vietnam.

Despite the familiar devices that have made the series appealing—the mix of fictional characters and real-life personages, the judicious use of insiders’ knowledge, the sardonic wit—TUCKER’S LAST STAND may be the least successful of the Blackford Oakes books. Buckley seems unable to find a focus for this novel, and the writing by his usual standard, is quite pedestrian.