Memoir of a Young Spy
From the publisher:
Saving the Panama Canal, one body at a time.
At the height of the Cold War, young Nick Halliday joins the CIA to distance himself from a family tragedy and to do his part in the patriotic fight against the communist menace. Rushed into his first undercover assignment in Panama in 1958, Nick finds himself mired in the humid, dripping world of deceit and lies.
Pretending to be a leftist-leaning visiting professor at the University of Panama, Nick infiltrates an earnest, naïve group of leftist students bent on Panama regaining ownership of the canal. But Nick’s budding romance with Maria, a beautiful student activist, throws his mission sideways.
The international clash of ideologies harshly intrudes on a young man’s love for a woman. Both are expendable pawns in a vast worldwide death match. Can they survive in a game that only values winning, whatever the cost? And what does winning mean, anyway?
Miraflores is a novel with many parts. It is a love story, it is a complex conspiracy story, it is an adventure in an exotic setting that is not too far from our own present-day world. But most important it is a well-done story with some very well-delineated characters caught in a period of great stress.
Nick Haliday is a young man looking to start his career with the problem of a father holding a high-level position in the U.S. State Department and looking for Nick to join him there. Nick is reluctant to do so due to his suspicion that his father was somehow complicit in the suicide death of his mother. He somehow literally blunders into getting a job with the then-fledgling CIA and stumbles into a position that sends him to Panama.
The time of the novel is the period prior to the United States ceding the Panama Canal back to the people of Panama. The Canal Zone was an enclave existing side by side with Panama city. It was literally a slice of the American midwest built to house the staff and their families of the workers running the Canal. It was the target of a great deal of resentment by the Panamanians working at the Canal for one-third of the salaries that Americans earned for the same job.
Nick is picked for a post in Panama just as he is finishing his training. He is to assume the position of a professor of English at the University of Panama. His mandate is to search out dissidents among his students who are Panamanians that might be involved in plots against the U.S. and report them to his superiors at the agency. He assumes his position and two things happen; first, he meets a young lady that he falls in love with, and second, he arrives at the realization that the people of Panama do have a legitimate gripe against the attitude of the U.S.
Yokum tells his story in a concise manner painting a perfect picture of the mixture of various complex ideas during a tumultuous period in U.S. Latin American relations. An all-night draw and a description of what is a relatively near term, but alien world.
1/2021 Paul Lane
MIRAFLORES by Keith Yokum. Self published. (November 11, 2020). ISBN: 978-0997870879. 282 pages.