By Tony Russell|
Charles McCarry penned a series of espionage
thrillers several decades ago. His reputation seems
to have vanished into thin air, but at the time there
were reviewers who praised him as a writer surpassing
John Le Carré. I hadn't thought of McCarry's work for
years, until events of the last two election campaigns
triggered a faint memory, sending me rummaging through
dusty shelves in search of The Better Angels.
Published in 1979, McCarry's The Better Angels is set
"in the last decade of the twentieth century." Like
Orwell's 1984, it appears to have been bleakly
prescient about the near-future, if slightly off mark
with its calendar.
In brief, the story turns on a presidential election
in the United States and a terrorist plot launched
from the Middle East. The election, close and
bitterly contested, pits a hard-right conservative
against a liberal populist. The conservative
candidate, former president Franklin Mallory, had
installed centralized computer voting in his first
term, using conventional telephone circuits. Although
the network is incomplete, the largest cities in key
states such as New York, Michigan, and California are
Horace Hubbard, whose half-brother is chief aide to
Lockwood, the current president and other candidate,
has a lover who is a computer expert with U.S.
intelligence. He sounds her out on the possibility of
using her access and skill to swing the election. She
approaches it as an intellectual challenge.
"It's possible, then?" he said. "I mean, possible
conceivable trace being left?"
"I've already said so."
"You don't mind using the machines for this?"
Rose laughed. "It'll do them good. They'll have to
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