This sprawling narrative (1200 pages in paper, 1400 in cloth) is only the first part of Mailer's projected masterwork on mid-20th century America through the prism of the CIA. Narrator Harry Hubbard grew up in the shadow of the agency, marries the cool patrician ex-wife of his powerful, scary mentor in the Company, Hugh Tremont Montague ("Harlot"), and she in turn cheats on Harry with brash operative Dix Butler. Most of the story concerns Harry's early work for the CIA during 1956-63, in Berlin after the war and in Florida trying to arrange Castro's assassination. There is much talk of love (Harry has a mistress or two, as does almost everyone else, nearly all apparently bisexuals from Eastern establishment families), betrayal, and sex. Apparently much of Harry's prehistory and probably later experiences will be taken up in a future book or two. The writing is often rich and beautiful, but it's also hard to find anyone in the cast much to like.
This report prepared by David Loftus