Moffie, Sam. “To Kill the Duke”, Sam Moffie, 2012.
Political Satire at its Best
I only know Sam Moffie from Facebook and this is the first book that he has written that I have read. Let me say just one word here, “WOW”. I am about the explain what that means.
Political satire is a rough subject—it is either very good or misses the mark. Not here—here is hits a big fat bulls eye and really does what it sets out to do. While set in the 1950’s, the story is very real and, for me, that is what makes it such an exciting read. I understand that even though this is a work of fiction, it is based upon facts and that while they may seem far-fetched, might actually have happened.
Stalin had plans to kill John Wayne (yes, you read correctly). In fact, he sent agents to the United States to do so (as we learn in this book). In 1956, the film “The Conqueror” was released and it was not well received—in fact, it bombed. Wayne was cast as Genghis Khan which actually insured the failure of the film and even with Howard Hughes bankrolling it and Dick Powell directing, there was little hope for the project. The film itself becomes a major character in the plot.
I think we often forget how it was during the Cold War and the feelings many Americans had about Soviets as well as the fear that was felt here should the wrong button be pushed. Moffie really brings that home. He has succeeded in this by giving us characters that are drawn perfectly and a plot that combines fact and fiction.
Ivan Viznapu is a down in luck filmmaker (or so he considers himself) who becomes simply a projectionist for Stalin and he was not happy with his job but it certainly could have been much worse. He and Boris Gila, a cook are integral actors in Stalin’s plan. What the plan is and how it was to work is for you to discover yourself because if I tell you, I will spoil a terrific read.
I found myself wanting to learn more about the film and the period and with a few clicks on the computer, it is easy to find out all about the original film and some of those who actually participated are still around today and have interesting tidbits to add.
Our gang of Soviets led by one Zavert find themselves in the company of American gangsters and the members of the cast of the film and things get really wild. Moffie has done some amazing research to bring us a comic spy story that might actually have happened. This is a must-read if for nothing else than the sheer pleasure of reading.