Q Clearance


Author: Benchley, Peter
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Publisher: Coronet
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Publication Year: 1988
ISBN#: 978-0-340-40223-8
Pages: 384


In this novel the author of Jaws reveals that he knows as much about the White House as he does about the sea: a knowledge which is the 'special ingredient' in an irresistibly hilarious and suspenseful story.

Timothy Burnham works – as Peter Benchley once did – as a speechwriter to the President. He has been in the same room as the great man, but only with a lot of other people, and he likes it that way – he is that rarity in Washington, a man with no appetite for power.

By a quirk of bureaucracy Burnham is given Q Clearance, which means that every day he receives documents crammed with the highest atomic secrets of which he understands not a word, and which he has to shred every night.

Big joke, thinks Burham – but he does not laugh when for unfathomable reasons he suddenly becomes the President's blue-eyed boy. That, he knows, is more than he can cope with – except that, exhilaratingly, the terrifying old man seems to bring out in Burnham more than Burnham knew was there.

While this nerve-racking relationship is developing, Burnham meets a lovely blonde. It does not occur to him that a lovely blonde might show obvious interest in a man with Q Clearance, who enjoys the confidence of his President, for some reason other than their enjoyable compatibility.

Add to this situation a White House cleaning lady from Bermuda who is desperate to procure for her son a certificate of graduation from high school; an enigmatic caterer whose past is known to nobody (or at least, to nobody in the United States); and several members of the President's Cabinet – figures who would be larger than life if they were not so devastatingly true to it – and you have a spy novel that is pure pleasure: a wonderful balancing act between fidelity to a mind-boggling reality and a genius for entertainment.