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6. THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO (1975)
TIME PERIOD: 1970s, Post-Watergate
I have a feeling many Ludlum fans will be ticked off that I ranked this novel – for which Robert used the pseudonym Michael Shepherd – above the seventh novel on my countdown.
HERO: Sam Devereaux, a handsome and brilliant lawyer who works for the United States Army and has risen to the rank of Major. Sam hates Army life and can’t wait to get out.
In his final days before leaving the service he becomes drawn into the schemes of General “Mac” Hawkins, who establishes grounds for continuing to extort cooperation from Sam even after his return to civilian life.
VILLAIN: General MacKenzie Hawkins, living legend and a cross between George Patton and Peter Falk’s manipulative CIA agent in the original version of The In-Laws.
During World War Two, the 19 year old Hawkins was a decorated hero of the Battle of the Bulge and an instant folk hero. After the war Mac went to West Point, where he became an all-star Running Back for the football team.
During the Korean War, Hawkins moved up in the ranks and – shrewdly reading the emerging geo-political landscape – pursued his further career in the Far East. A General by the time America became involved in the Vietnam War, MacKenzie eventually gravitated to covert operations, specifically Black Ops.
Exiled to a diplomatic post over his tendency to make waves the General’s hard-drinking Bad Boy behavior caused an international incident between the U.S. and China.
When Major Sam Devereaux’s combination of legal brilliance and street-savvy saves Hawkins from hard time at Leavenworth the General coldly and calculatingly makes Sam an unwilling accomplice in his plot TO KIDNAP THE POPE FOR FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN RANSOM. Continue reading