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Harlot's Ghost
Cover of Harlot's Ghost
Harlot's Ghost
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
With unprecedented scope and consummate skill, Norman Mailer unfolds a rich and riveting epic of an American spy. Harry Hubbard is the son and godson of CIA legends. His journey to learn the secrets of his society—and his own past—takes him through the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the "momentous catastrophe" of the Kennedy assassination. All the while, Hubbard is haunted by women who were loved by both his godfather and President Kennedy. Featuring a tapestry of unforgettable characters both real and imagined, Harlot's Ghost is a panoramic achievement in the tradition of Tolstoy, Melville, and Balzac, a triumph of Mailer's literary prowess.

Praise for Harlot's Ghost

"[Norman Mailer is] the right man to exalt the history of the CIA into something better than history."—Anthony Burgess, The Washington Post Book World

"Elegantly written and filled with almost electric tension . . . When I returned from the world of Harlot's Ghost to the present I wished to be enveloped again by Mailer's imagination."—Robert Wilson, USA Today

"Immense, fascinating, and in large part brilliant."—Salman Rushdie, The Independent on Sunday

"A towering creation . . . a fiction as real and as possible as actual history."The New York Times

Praise for Norman Mailer

"[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation."The New York Times

"A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent."The New Yorker

"Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure."The Washington Post

"A devastatingly alive and original creative mind."Life

"Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance."The New York Review of Books

"The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book."Chicago Tribune

"Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream."The Cincinnati Post
From the Trade Paperback edition.
With unprecedented scope and consummate skill, Norman Mailer unfolds a rich and riveting epic of an American spy. Harry Hubbard is the son and godson of CIA legends. His journey to learn the secrets of his society—and his own past—takes him through the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the "momentous catastrophe" of the Kennedy assassination. All the while, Hubbard is haunted by women who were loved by both his godfather and President Kennedy. Featuring a tapestry of unforgettable characters both real and imagined, Harlot's Ghost is a panoramic achievement in the tradition of Tolstoy, Melville, and Balzac, a triumph of Mailer's literary prowess.

Praise for Harlot's Ghost

"[Norman Mailer is] the right man to exalt the history of the CIA into something better than history."—Anthony Burgess, The Washington Post Book World

"Elegantly written and filled with almost electric tension . . . When I returned from the world of Harlot's Ghost to the present I wished to be enveloped again by Mailer's imagination."—Robert Wilson, USA Today

"Immense, fascinating, and in large part brilliant."—Salman Rushdie, The Independent on Sunday

"A towering creation . . . a fiction as real and as possible as actual history."The New York Times

Praise for Norman Mailer

"[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation."The New York Times

"A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent."The New Yorker

"Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure."The Washington Post

"A devastatingly alive and original creative mind."Life

"Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance."The New York Review of Books

"The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book."Chicago Tribune

"Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream."The Cincinnati Post
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One On a late-winter evening in 1983, while driving through fog along the Maine coast, recollections of old campfires began to drift into the March mist, and I thought of the Abnaki Indians of the Algonquin tribe who dwelt near Bangor a thousand years ago.

    In the spring, after the planting of corn, the younger braves and squaws would leave the aged to watch over the crops and the children, and would take their birchbark canoes south for the summer. Down the Penobscot River they would travel to Blue Hill Bay on the western side of Mount Desert where my family's house, built in part by my great-great-grandfather, Doane Hadlock Hubbard, still stands. It is called the Keep, and I do not know of all else it keeps, but some Indians came ashore to build lean-tos each summer, and a few of their graves are among us, although I do not believe they came to our island to die. Lazing in the rare joys of northern warmth, they must have shucked clams on the flats at low tide and fought and fornicated among the spruce and hemlock when the water was up. What they got drunk on I do not know, unless it was the musk of each other, but many a rocky beach in the first hollow behind the shore sports mounds of ancient clamshells, ground to powder by the centuries, a beach behind the beach to speak of ancient summer frolics. The ghosts of these Indians may no longer pass through our woods, but something of their old sorrows and pleasures joins the air. Mount Desert is more luminous than the rest of Maine.

    Even guidebooks for tourists seek to describe this virtue: "The island of Mount Desert, fifteen miles in diameter, rises like a fabled city from the sea. The natives call it Acadia, beautiful and awesome."

    Beautiful and awesome. We have a fjord in the middle of Mount Desert, a spectacular four-mile passage by water between promontories on either side. It is the only true fjord on the Atlantic coast of North America, yet it is but a part of our rock-hewn splendor. Near the shore, peaks rise abruptly a thousand feet to afford sailing craft the illusion of great mountains, and our finest anchorage, Northeast Harbor, is in summer a dazzle of yachts.

    Perhaps it is the nearness of our mountains to the sea, but silences are massive here, and summers have an allure not simple to describe. For one thing, we are not an island to attract people who follow the sun. We have almost no sand beach. The shore is pebble and clamshell strand, and twelve-foot tides inundate the rocks. Washed by incoming waves are barnacles and periwinkles, rockweed mussels, Irish moss, red seaweed, dulse. Sand dollars and whelks lie scattered in the throw of the surf. Kelp is everywhere and devil's-apron often winds around one's ankles. In the tide pools grow anemone and sponge. Starfish and sea urchins are near your toes. One walks with care over sharp stones. And the water is so cold that swimmers who did not spend childhood vacations in this icy sea can hardly bear it. I have lolled in the wild green above the reefs of the Caribbean and sailed over purple deeps in the Mediterranean, I have seen the inimitable mist of hot summer on the Chesapeake when all hues blend between the sky and the bay. I even like slate-brown rivers that rush through canyons in the West, but I love the piercing blue of Frenchman's Bay and Blue Hill Bay, and the bottomless blue of the Eastern and Western Way surrounding Mount Desert--indeed, one's affection for the island even shares the local accent. As decreed by the natives, one spells it Mount Desert, but the pronunciation is Mount Dessert. The view is as fine as sugar frosting to a New Englander's eyes.

    I speak in hyperbole, but then who cannot on recalling such summer...
About the Author-
  • Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner's Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007 in New York City.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 30, 1991
    Those who quail at the prospect of a 1400-page novel by the author of Ancient Evenings and Tough Guys Don't Dance need have no fear. Mailer's newest effort, a mammoth imagining of the CIA that puts all previous fictions about the Agency in the shade, reads like an express train. Never has he written more swiftly and surely, more vividly and with less existential clutter. A contemporary picaresque yarn, Harlot's Ghost bears more than a slight resemblance to those great 18th-century English novels that chronicle the coming-of-age of a young rogue with good connections. Harry Hubbard is a bright young man whose father and whose mentor, Hugh Montague (also known as Harlot), are both senior CIA figures and induct him into the Agency. Most of the book, after a melodramatic beginning, is one long flashback, Harry's autobiographical account of his early career--partly in his own words, partly in an exchange of letters with Harlot's beautiful, brilliant wife, Kittredge, whom Harry admires from afar and will one day steal. He is seen in training in the '50s under real-life figures like Allen Dulles and Dick Bissell, and with the martini-swigging, pistol-toting William Harvey at his first post in Berlin--where he meets Dix Butler, who becomes in a sense his nemesis. A quiet spell in Montevideo under Howard Hunt follows, then he goes to Washington, where he watches the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis develop--and becomes the lover of President Kennedy's mistress. The book winds down with Kennedy's assassination and a sense of growing despair, only to conclude with a gnomic ``To Be Continued.'' Whether or not there is really to be a sequel, Harlot's Ghost is entirely self-contained, and a bravura performance. In an author's note listing his voluminous sources and the relation of fictional to nonfictional characters, Mailer claims that good fiction ``is more real, more nourishing to our sense of reality, than nonfiction.'' The book is an utterly convincing portrait of that strange, snobbish, macho, autocratic collection of brainy misfits who have played so large and often tragic a role in American history. BOMC main selection; first serial to Rolling Stone.

  • The New York Times Praise for Norman Mailer

    Praise for Harlot's Ghost "[Norman Mailer is] the right man to exalt the history of the CIA into something better than history."--Anthony Burgess, The Washington Post Book World "Elegantly written and filled with almost electric tension . . . When I returned from the world of Harlot's Ghost to the present I wished to be enveloped again by Mailer's imagination."--Robert Wilson, USA Today "Immense, fascinating, and in large part brilliant."--Salman Rushdie, The Independent on Sunday "A towering creation . . . a fiction as real and as possible as actual history."

  • The Cincinnati Post "[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation."--The New York Times "A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent."--The New Yorker "Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure."--The Washington Post "A devastatingly alive and original creative mind."--Life "Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance."--The New York Review of Books "The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book."--Chicago Tribune "Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream."
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