Give Us This Day
The Berlin Ending
East of Farewell
Limit of Darkness
Stranger in Town
A Foreign Affair
I Came to Kill
Be My Victim
End of a Stripper
A Gift for Gomala
Where Murder Waits
Compulsive Spy: The Strange Career of E. Howard Hunt
An Assassin's Diary
From December 7, 1941, to August 15, 1973, the United States has been continuously at war except for a brief, too little celebrated interregnum. Between 1945 and 1950 the empire turned its attention to peaceful pursuits and enjoyed something of a golden or at least for us not too brazen an age. The arts in particular flourished. Each week new genius was revealed by the press; and old genius decently buried. Among the new novelists of that far-off time were Truman Capote (today a much loved television performer) and myself. Although we were coevals (a word that the late William Faulkner thought meant evil at the same time as), we were unlike: Capote looked upon the gorgeous Speed Lamkin as a true tiger in the Capotean garden where I saw mere lambkin astray in my devouring jungle.
The one thing that Capote and I did have in common was a need for money. And so each of us applied to the Guggenheim Foundation for a grant; and each was turned down. Shocked, we compared notes. Studied the list of those who had received grants. “Will you just look,” moaned Truman, “at those ahh-full pee-pull they keep giving muh-nee to!” Except for the admirable Carson McCullers who got so many grants in her day that she was known as the conductress on the gravy train, the list of honored writers was not to our minds distinguished. Typical of the sort of novelist the Guggenheims preferred to Capote and me in 1946 was twenty-eight-year-old (practically middle-aged) Howard Hunt, author of East of Farewell (Random House, 1943); a novel described by the publishers as “probably the first novel about this war by an American who actually helped fight it.” The blurb is unusually excited. Apparently, H.H. “grew up like any other American boy” (no tap-dancing on a river boat for him) “going to public schools and to college (Brown University, where he studied under I.J. Kapstein).”
A clue. I slip into reverie. Kapstein will prove to be my Rosebud. The key to the Hunt mystery. But does Kapstein still live? Will he talk? Or is he afraid? I daydream. “Hunt…E. Howard Hunt…ah, yes. Sit down, Mr.…uh, Bozell? Forgive me…this last stroke seems to have…. Where were we? Howie. Yes. I must tell you something of the Kapstein creative writing method. I require the tyro pen-man to copy out in long hand some acknowledged world masterpiece. Howie copied out—if memory serves—Of Human Bondage.”
But until the Kapstein Connection is made, I must search the public record for clues. The dust jacket of H.H.’s first novel tells us that he became a naval ensign in May, 1941. “There followed many months of active duty at sea on a destroyer, on the North Atlantic patrol, protecting the life-line to embattled England….” That’s more like it. My eyes shut: the sea. A cold foggy day. Slender,…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Try two months of unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 a month.
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our complete 55+ year archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 a month.