Marco Polo, If You Can
William F. Buckley Jr.
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1982, 233 pp.
Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, is faced with the challenge of finding and neutralizing a government mole and turning what has been an intelligence disaster to our advantage. The result is a fast paced spy thriller that closely parallels accounts (as I remember them from junior high school current events assignments) of Francis Gary Powers' ill fated U-2 spy flight and his subsequent exchange, on a bridge between East and West Germany, for Soviet East German spy, Rudolf Abel. At the time there was controversy as to how the U-2 was downed. The Soviets claiming that they shot it down. But the U.S. claimed that, at 75,000 feet, the U-2 was too high for both antiaircraft and then current Soviet SAM missile capability.
In the book, Blackford Oakes is recruited back to the CIA by his old friend and mentor, Rufus, shortly after having been fired from the CIA. Allen Dulles has recruited Rufus from semi retirement to manage this delicate mission and Oakes is one of the three agents that Rufus insists he needs for the project. A key feature of Rufus's disinformation plan is the advance leaking to the Soviets of details of a planned U-2 spy flight over the Soviet Union and then faking a malfunction that forces it to crash land inside the Soviet Union. Oakes' love of country and commitment to its freedom is severely tested when he is asked to fly the U-2 and trust that his friend's complex plan to get him out alive will work.
As with other novels in the Blackford Oakes series, the people and events of the story closely parallels real life accounts of the times but the view is that of an insider.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent