Concieved as an American answer to James Bond by William F. Buckley, Blackford Oakes is young, dashing, a Yale graduate, a member of the CIA, and not coincidentally, extremely attractive, though chivalrous, toward women. (Lying awake in a school for assassins, Oakes recalls advice given by his mother and free-associates until he thinks about his girlfriend, a Vassar girl writing a Ph.D thesis on Jane Austen, and thereupon writes her one of their trademark arch letters to each other.) As with many good romance novels, part of the fun is the way he's almost going to have sex, but...With Sally, he remains chaste until their marriage...after a fashion. (Much is made of "the caress"...or mutual masturbation.)

WFB created this character since he was fed up with the idea of secret agents on the side of the Free World being portrayed as womanizers and the moral equivalent of the KGB. His thesis was that the ends of the CIA and other agencies in the First World were superior since they promoted freedom and democracy, whereas the ends of the KGB were control and totalitarianism. The framing story for the whole series is a Senate investigation of malfeasance in the Agency, whereupon Oakes must recount all the different places where he influenced history. Accordingly, one of the most interesting features of the series is that each book is based on an actual Cold War event: the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the U-2 spy plane incident, the rise of Castro, etc. Considering that the man had access to more than a little privileged information on most of these things, it's interesting to speculate whether there's more than a little disguised fact in with the fiction. Not that he hasn't been known to plant disinformation into the series as well....

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