Presidential Agent, written in 1944 is the fifth in the magnificent and epic eleven book Lanny Budd Series written by Upton Sinclair and covering the period of 1937 and 1938. Upon publication, Viking Press issued a statement that the books were related but could be enjoyed independently. I disagree. As I have previously noted, I read the third book, the Pulitzer Prize winning Dragon’s Teeth first and it lived up to the awards and recognition it received but I was convinced that one had to start at the beginning to fully appreciate the series. And so I did. I read all eleven books in about six weeks and have reread World’s End, Wide Is The Gate and Presidential Agent again.
Presidential Agent begins with a chance encounter Lanny has in New York with his boss at the Versailles Treaty. When Lanny is nineteen years old he is hired to assist a college Professor, Charlie Alston with the geographical aspects of the remaking of Europe after the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austrian Empires following the end of World War One. Professor Alston, one of President Roosevelt’s closest advisors and a “fix-it” man introduces Lnnny to President Roosevelt and Lanny has many confidential meetings with FDR and becomes Presidential Agent 103. The meetings are brought to life in such a way you feel yourself in the room with them as they discuss the coming storm in Europe. Lanny sounds the alarms to the coming of Fascism and Nazism and the fall of the democratically elected government of Spain and the rape of Abyssinia by Mussolini. All of the terror brought by Franco, Mussolini and Hitler is financed by rich and powerful industrialists and financiers. Their reasoning behind supporting these onetime skid row bums is to ward off the Red Menace or Bolshevism. These European plutocrats are more fearful of the Reds than surrendering their freedoms to Fascism and Nazism.
Lanny’s secret wife Trudi has been kidnapped by the Gestapo and the insuring efforts by Lanny to rescue her are riveting and as daring as the rescue of Alfy from Franco’s dungeon in Spain and the attempt to rescue Fredi from the Gestapo in Dragon’s Teeth.
There is a conspiracy Lanny is privy to involving the “200” families of France to over throw the French government, known as the Cagoular’s or hooded men. The Plutocrats of France are determined to make nice with Hitler in the hope of retaining their wealth and avoiding another war. They believe order of the German variety is the only solution to the corruption of the various French political factions or even worse, the Bolsheviks. This is a very exciting and significant part of this story.
There is also much intrigue in England and France between the wealthy, the diplomats and the politicians. No one can guess what Hitler will settle for and where his greed for more territory will end. The powerful in England want to believe that Hitler will be content with regaining the territories that were predominantly German people prior to the Versailles Treaty. Hitler has demanded Austria, Czechoslovakia as well as Poland.
The Munich agreement is reached in which England and France accede Czechoslovakia to Hitler in hopes of reaching an accord that will avoid war and bring “Peace in Our Lifetime”. This appeasement to Hitler and his Fascist government is now well known to students of world history. and foretells the coming conflagration to Europe, indeed the entire world. This is the beginning World War Two.
Finally there is the assassination of a German Embassy official in Paris by a deranged Jewish youth that ignites the Nazi’s pogrom against the Jews and the pillaging of Jewish businesses. Jews are rounded up and by the hundreds of thousands many commit suicide, are murdered or sent to the Dachau concentration camp.
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