Secret Father: A Novel

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From a New York Times–bestselling author, a “gripping and beautifully written” novel of love and family set against the backdrop of Cold War Berlin (Bookpage).

Berlin, 1961. Days before the Wall rises, three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to the Communist side of the divided city to join a May Day rally. One of them has brought along a flight bag belonging to his father, a US intelligence officer. Before long, the teens are in the custody of the secret East German police, the notorious Stasi. Unbeknownst to them, their parents have unfinished business, reaching back to World War II, which will pull the three friends into the vortex of an international incident.
 
Told through flashbacks by alternating narrators, Secret Father is a novel of missed signals, cloaked motives, false postures, and panicked responses that tragically echo across borders and generations. Like the classic period thrillers of Graham Greene, James Carroll’s politically charged coming-of-age tale provides a “somber and evocative look at some of the most frightening times in one of the most frightening places in the Cold War” (Kirkus Reviews). “Carroll writes with rich, lyrical ease,” raves Publishers Weekly. “His characters are richly drawn, and the pieces of his impeccably paced story fit together with the cool precision of a Mercedes-Benz.”
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About the author

James Carroll was raised in Washington, DC, and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar-in-residence at Suffolk University, Carroll is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a regular contributor to the Daily Beast. His critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award–winning An American Requiem, winner of the first PEN/Galbraith Award House of War, and the New York Times bestseller Constantine’s Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Jan 24, 2005
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780547526836
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Historical
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Thrillers / Espionage
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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National Book Award winner: This story of a family torn apart by the Vietnam era is “a magnificent portrayal of two noble men who broke each other’s hearts” (Booklist).
 
James Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father, who had once dreamed of becoming a priest, instead began a career in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, rising through the ranks and eventually becoming one of the most powerful men in the Pentagon, the founder of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Young Jim lived a privileged life, dating the daughter of a vice president and meeting the pope—all in the shadow of nuclear war, waiting for the red telephone to ring in his parents’ house.
 
James fulfilled the goal his father had abandoned, becoming a priest himself. His feelings toward his father leaned toward worship as well—until the tumult of the 1960s came between them. Their disagreements, over Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; turmoil in the Church; and finally, Vietnam—where the elder Carroll chose targets for US bombs—began to outweigh the bond between them. While one of James’s brothers fled to Canada, another was in law enforcement ferreting out draft dodgers. James, meanwhile, served as a chaplain at Boston University, protesting the war in the streets but ducking news cameras to avoid discovery. Their relationship would never be the same again.
 
Only after Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer, and a husband with children of his own, did he begin to understand fully the struggles his father had faced. In An American Requiem, the New York Times bestselling author of Constantine’s Sword and Christ Actually offers a benediction, in “a moving memoir of the effect of the Vietnam War on his family that is at once personal and the story of a generation . . . at once heartbreaking and heroic, this is autobiography at its best” (Publishers Weekly).
 
In post-WWII Italy, an American uncovers a Vatican scandal in a “thriller with deeply serious historical undertones” by a National Book Award winner (Alan Cheuse, NPR, All Things Considered).
 
David Warburg, newly minted director of the US War Refugee Board, arrives in Rome at war’s end, determined to bring aid to the destitute European Jews streaming into the city. Marguerite d’Erasmo, a French-Italian Red Cross worker with a shadowed past, is initially Warburg’s guide—while a charismatic young American Catholic priest, Monsignor Kevin Deane, seems equally committed to aiding Italian Jews.
 
But the city is a labyrinth of desperate fugitives: runaway Nazis, Jewish resisters, and criminal Church figures. Marguerite, caught between justice and revenge, is forced to play a double game. At the center of the maze, Warburg discovers one of history’s great scandals: the Vatican ratline, a clandestine escape route maintained by Church officials and providing scores of Nazi war criminals with secret passage to South America. 
 
Turning to American intelligence officials, he learns that the dark secret is not as secret as he thought—and that even those he trusts may betray him—in this “complex and compelling novel of the Vatican and morality during World War II” (Library Journal). Warburg in Rome has “the breathtaking pace of a thriller and the gravitas of a genuine moral center—as if John LeCarré and Graham Greene collaborated” (Mary Gordon).
 
“A high-stakes battle between good and evil [and] a plot full of twists and turns.” —The Boston Globe
 
“A suspenseful historical drama set in Rome at the end of WWII and centering on Vatican complicity in the flight of Nazi fugitives to Argentina.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Recommend this utterly engaging thriller to fans of Joseph Kanon’s The Good German and James R. Benn’s Death’s Door.” —Booklist, starred review
From the National Book Award–winning author of An American Requiem and Constantine's Sword comes a sweeping yet intimate look at the Pentagon and its vast—often hidden—impact on America.

This landmark, myth-shattering work chronicles the most powerful institution in America, the people who created it, and the pathologies it has spawned. James Carroll proves a controversial thesis: the Pentagon has, since its founding, operated beyond the control of any force in government or society. It is the biggest, loosest cannon in American history, and no institution has changed this country more. To argue his case, he marshals a trove of often chilling evidence. He recounts how "the Building" and its denizens achieved what Eisenhower called "a disastrous rise of misplaced power"—from the unprecedented aerial bombing of Germany and Japan during World War II to the "shock and awe" of Iraq. He charts the colossal U.S. nuclear buildup, which far outpaced that of the USSR, and has outlived it. He reveals how consistently the Building has found new enemies just as old threats—and funding—evaporate. He demonstrates how Pentagon policy brought about U.S. indifference to an epidemic of genocide during the 1990s. And he shows how the forces that attacked the Pentagon on 9/11 were set in motion exactly sixty years earlier, on September 11, 1941, when ground was broken for the house of war.

Carroll draws on rich personal experience (his father was a top Pentagon official for more than twenty years) as well as exhaustive research and dozens of extensive interviews with Washington insiders. The result is a grand yet intimate work of history, unashamedly polemical and personal but unerringly factual. With a breadth and focus that no other book could muster, it explains what America has become over the past sixty years.
In a bold and moving book that is sure to spark heated debate, the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church’s battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.
The Church’s failure to protest the Holocaust — the infamous “silence” of Pius XII — is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine’s transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern anti-Semitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church’s conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this narrative, he implicitly affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews, and all who carry the burden of this history begin to forge a new future.
Drawing on his well-known talents as a storyteller and memoirist, and weaving historical research through an intensely personal examination of conscience, Carroll has created a work of singular power and urgency. CONSTANTINE'S SWORD is a brave and affecting reckoning with difficult truths that will touch every reader.
National Book Award winner: This story of a family torn apart by the Vietnam era is “a magnificent portrayal of two noble men who broke each other’s hearts” (Booklist).
 
James Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father, who had once dreamed of becoming a priest, instead began a career in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, rising through the ranks and eventually becoming one of the most powerful men in the Pentagon, the founder of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Young Jim lived a privileged life, dating the daughter of a vice president and meeting the pope—all in the shadow of nuclear war, waiting for the red telephone to ring in his parents’ house.
 
James fulfilled the goal his father had abandoned, becoming a priest himself. His feelings toward his father leaned toward worship as well—until the tumult of the 1960s came between them. Their disagreements, over Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; turmoil in the Church; and finally, Vietnam—where the elder Carroll chose targets for US bombs—began to outweigh the bond between them. While one of James’s brothers fled to Canada, another was in law enforcement ferreting out draft dodgers. James, meanwhile, served as a chaplain at Boston University, protesting the war in the streets but ducking news cameras to avoid discovery. Their relationship would never be the same again.
 
Only after Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer, and a husband with children of his own, did he begin to understand fully the struggles his father had faced. In An American Requiem, the New York Times bestselling author of Constantine’s Sword and Christ Actually offers a benediction, in “a moving memoir of the effect of the Vietnam War on his family that is at once personal and the story of a generation . . . at once heartbreaking and heroic, this is autobiography at its best” (Publishers Weekly).
 
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