I was never much in agreement with conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr.’s politics, although it was hard to dispute his assessment that George W. Bush’s deception-engendered war on Iraq has been a failure (“If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign”). But, as I read today about Buckley’s death at age 82, I can’t help remembering that I enjoyed some of his early novels featuring rules-encumbered and sometimes randy CIA operative Blackford Oakes, including 1976’s Saving the Queen (in which, as I recall, Oakes has an affair with the Queen of England in the ’50s), Stained Glass (1979), Who’s on First (1980), and 1985’s See You Later, Alligator (a post-Bay of Pigs story in which Oakes meets revolutionary Che Guevara).
The New York Times has the best Buckley obituary I’ve seen yet. It recounts the editor-author’s wonderfully erudite diction, his year spent with the Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico City (during which his case officer was E. Howard Hunt, who would himself become a spy novelist before participating in the Republican Watergate scandal), and his quixotic 1965 run for the New York City mayor’s office (“asked what he would do if he won, he answered, ‘Demand a recount,’” the Times recalls).
READ MORE: “The ‘Father of Modern Conservatism,’ Dead at 82,” by Glenn Greenwald (Salon).