Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nick and Jake: A Literary-Historical Smash Up

Nick and Jake: An Epistolary Novel by Jonathan Richards and Tad Richards mixes literary figures with historical persons.

In 1953 Nick Carraway, one-hit wonder novelist and Assistant Undersecretary of State for European Affairs, becomes friends with Jake Barnes, expatriate veteran and newsman with a conscience.

America is embroiled in a Cold War and a nuclear arms race, with Vietnam emerging as the central playing field. The CIA is interfering with foreign governments. On the homefront, McCarthy's witch hunt for Reds is peaking and the CIA is spying on Americans.

CIA maverick Robert Cohn's nephew Robert is Senator McCarthy's top aide and is on a book burning tour of American government libraries in Europe.

True Blue Nick is losing his rose-tinted view of the homeland and is finally starting that second novel. Jake's war wound may be reversible thanks to cutting-edge surgery developed when Dr. Hamburger turned George into Christine Jorgensen.

I had great fun identifying the references. Nick (from The Great Gatsby) and Jake (from The Sun Also Rises) are products of the 1920s, watching a younger generation dismantle the world they fought to preserve. Readers meet a host of other characters ranging from schoolyard bully Bill (William) Buckley, CIA director Allen Dulles, neo-conservative pioneer Irving Kristol, collaborator Maurice Chevalier, TV director Jimmie Dodd (host of Mickey Mouse Club), and Ronnie Gilchrist, a young singer mistaken for The Weavers' Ronnie Gilbert.

The novel is a fun jaunt, but also a provocative reminder of America's past sins. It connects the dots between choices made in 1953 that created problems that impact us to this day--like the destabilization of the Middle East. And it is a timely reminder and warning not to repeat the past.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Nick and Jake: An Epistolary Novel
Jonathan Richards and Tad Richards
Open Road Media
ISBN: 9781611458282

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