"The Man with Many Names," by Richard Oliver Collin. 198...

Book Brief

March 05, 1995|By Melissa Grace

"The Man with Many Names," by Richard Oliver Collin. 198 pages. New York: St. Martin's Press. $20.95

This opens as a high-tech, high-flying international political thriller and makes a crash landing by the end of chapter one.

It is the fictional account of a U.S. "technical intelligence advisor," or "TIA," who is so wrapped up in a personal tragedy, his entire life, that he seems able to get through the day only by sheer luck. The book doesn't work. The major scene, a fiery battle pitting a small band of British army scouts, led by "the Advisor" (or the man with many names), against a gang of local guerrilla separatists, is repeatedly interrupted by the reminiscences of, and personal problems of, this so-called spook. He is supposed to be a 20-year intelligence-gathering veteran, but this guy's life is not credible.

The result is utter absurdity: The Advisor mistakes the army doctor for Prince Philip. He is "vaguely aware" of giving up company secrets. He somehow confuses the smell of burning, human flesh with "those Long Range Reconnaissance Group picnics in Virginia and the aroma of sizzling steaks."

The failure is that the author is unable to do what he attempts - reconcile conflicts in the human consciousness.

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