Cover image for Old boys
Old boys
McCarry, Charles.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
476 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
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They start with a photo found in Paul's study: a woman's hand holding a centuries-old scroll, once in the possession of the Nazis and now sought by the U.S. government and Muslim extremists alike.

Charles McCarry is considered by many to be the master of American spy fiction, brilliantly staking his claim with such international bestsellers as The Tears of Autumn and The Miernik Dossier. A spy writer's spy writer, he has been lauded extravagantly by the critics and his peers. George V. Higgins wrote "Charles McCarry is the Lord's best combination of spellbinding storyteller and silken prose writer." "Intelligent and enthralling," said Eric Ambler, and Jeffrey Archer praised writing that "makes one put the book down and gasp." In his magnificent new novel, with rights sold in six countries before publication, McCarry returns to the world of his legendary character, Paul Christopher, the crack intelligence agent who is as skilled at choosing a fine wine as he is at tradecraft, at once elegant and dangerous, sophisticated and rough-and-ready. As the novel begins, Paul Christopher, now an aging but remarkably fit 70ish, is dining at home with his cousin Horace, also an ex-agent. Dinner is delicious and uneventful. A day later, Paul has vanished. The months pass, Paul's ashes are delivered by a Chinese official to the American consulate in Beijing and a memorial service is held in Washington. But Horace is not convinced that Paul is dead and, enlisting the support of four other retired colleagues―a sort of all-star backfield of the old Outfit―Horace gets the "Old Boys" back in the game to find Paul Christopher. Harassed by American intelligence, hunted by terrorists, Horace Christopher and the Old Boys travel the globe, from Xinjiang to Brazil, from Rome to Tel Aviv, Budapest to Moscow, in search of Paul and the unspeakably dangerous truth.

Author Notes

Charles McCarry was born in 1930 in Massachusetts, the son of farming parents. His varied career involved work as an editor, reporter, freelance writer, assistant to the Secretary of Labor in Washington, D.C.; and as National Geographic's editor-at-large. He has also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). McCarry is married and has four children.

Charles McCarry's experiences as a reporter and his work for the CIA are reflected in his discerning nonfiction chronicles and his suspenseful spy novels. Titles of note are "Citizen Nader," a compelling biography of government watchdog Ralph Nader; "Inner Circles: How America Changed the World: A Memoir" (1992), co-written with Alexander Haig; his spy novels, including "Second Sight" (1991) and "Shelley's Heart" (1995), featuring CIA agent Paul Christopher; and "Lucky Bastard" (1998). McCarry's fiction has been characterized as cynical, intense and gripping.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

McCarry's latest is an old-fashioned, rollicking adventure that beats Ludlum and Cussler at their own game. When Paul Christopher, the enigmatic hero of several earlier McCarry novels, disappears while on a quest for his nonagenarian mother, Lori, his black-sheep cousin, Horace Hubbard, convenes a discreet cadre of over-the-hill spies to find their confrere--and to save the world from Ib'n Awad, an aging Islamic terrorist in possession of 12 nuclear suitcase bombs. In a beguiling twist sure to appeal to fans of The Da Vinci Code0 , all parties also seek a fabled ancient scroll that unmasks Jesus as an agent provocateur, handled by Judas for Roman spymaster Paul. The nonstop peregrinations of this league of extraordinary spooks take them to a score of exotic locales, pitting them against Chechen thugs, Chinese secret police, Nazi doctors, and a case of acute myocardial fibrillation. McCarry's commitment to this fanciful premise is absolute, and the resulting yarn combines the intrepid exploits of John Buchan, the cagey intrigue of Eric Ambler, and the clipped cadences of Dashiell Hammett. Tremendous fun. --David Wright Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

McCarry is another ace spy novelist from the past to whom Overlook's Peter Mayer is giving a new lease on life (as with Robert Littell's The Company two years ago). Both of them are real pros, with McCarry having a more lapidary style and a rather more aristocratic turn of mind. His "old boys," former CIA men who come out of retirement to help one of their former colleagues, Horace Hubbard, find his lost cousin, Paul Christopher, are a classy group, each with a well-defined area of expertise. Christopher, an elderly agent himself (he starred in some of McCarry's earlier books, most notably in The Tears of Autumn), has disappeared, and apparently died, in a remote area of China. His ashes are sent back to the U.S. by the Chinese, and a memorial service is held. But Horace cannot believe he is dead, and nor can Paul's daughter, Zarah. As they set out on Christopher's trail, they find it leads to his remarkable mother, Lori, who was probably involved in the assassination of Nazi kingpin Heydrich in WWII and kept as a legacy of that monster a priceless scroll in his possession depicting the death of Christ from a Roman agent's viewpoint. The plot is almost indescribable, involving a Muslim terrorist who wants the scroll and who plans to blow up much of the West with a cache of miniature Soviet nuclear bombs; a Chinese forced-labor camp; and sundry ex-Nazis, ex-KGB men and double-crossers galore. It's a great tribute to McCarry's skill that he manages to keep all his colored balls in the air and carry the reader willingly with him. But the kitchen-sink approach to the plot increasingly strains credibility as the story zips along, and the tension between his all-too-believable "old boys" and the comic-book action is never satisfactorily resolved. Agent, Owen Laster at William Morris. (June) Forecast: Overlook is getting behind this novel in a big way, with a 75,000 first printing, a $50,000 Father's Day campaign and rights already sold in six countries. While there's a challenge in bringing McCarry back to his older fans and, perhaps more importantly, introducing him to new ones, the house's experience with Robert Littell has proven that can be done. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Undoubtedly, fans of high-caliber spy fiction will welcome the return of McCarry's intelligence agent Paul Christopher (The Tears of Autumn; Second Sight), thought to have died in a remote corner of China. Upon receiving Christopher's ashes, his cousin, Horace, a onetime spy himself, nevertheless doubts their authenticity. He recruits a team of old boys from "the Outfit" (think CIA) to track down any evidence that their friend is alive and can be saved. Their investigations take them not just hither and yon over the globe but also deep into the minds of terrorists and religious extremists of the sort that American readers will recognize today. Truly unusual aspects of this rambunctious excursion into the exotic include a son's lasting love for his kidnapped mother, lost back in the Nazi heyday and her profound attachment to a mysterious scroll connected to Judas of the New Testament. McCarry, a wizard writer, transforms the sturdy ingredients of the spy and suspense genres into a magical brew for our new age. A summer read that will be in demand at many public libraries. Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.