National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33.


Mailer, Norman.  Harlot’s Ghost.  New York: Random, 1991.

Mailer reportedly spent seven years writing this massive novel which treats the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency from the Berlin Airlift to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What is more surprising than the book’s size is that, despite its size, it closes with the words “To Be Continued.”

As Jonathan Franzen has pointed out in his review in the Jerusalem Post, the novel may have had its germ in Mailer’s 1976 essay, “A Harlot High and Low”, in which he mused on the mindset that characterized the CIA and the reasons for the agency’s apparent involvement in the Watergate break-in. In his review in The Toronto Star, Philip Marchand notes that the title of the essay was also the title of Honore de Balzac’s novel about a prostitute–and that the scope of Mailer’s novel is nothing if…

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