Harry's Game - Gerald Seymour "Cock-up" appears to be a delightfully beguiling British phrase to describe what we Americans would call a major "fuck-up." Both of those euphemisms apply to the events described in this book. Seymour writes well and has a decidedly jaundiced view of virtually every layer of society except perhaps the little guy who finds him/her-self squeezed between forces beyond their control.

Ordinary people, pawns, politicians interested in public relations, generals concerned with intelligence but not always acting with same, the man in the field, independent, having to make snap decisions, constantly at risk, things never going the way they were planned. These are the ingredients of a Seymour spy novel. They are very good.

I have no idea what it must have been like to live in Ireland during the "Troubles." This book seems to provide an authentic look at Ireland from the point of view of an IRA assassin and the British agent sent to find and kill him. There are all sorts of plot summaries around for those interested in spoilers. One warning: if you are looking for blue sky at the end of the rainbow, you will be sorely disappointed.

The book was written in 1975 and recently reissued. I suspect many of the youngsters around today have no memory of the constant terror that must have existed between the Catholics and the Protestants, the incessant killing and reprisals, the brutal repressive tactics of the British authorities, and the efficiency and savagery of the IRA cells.

It's ironic that terrorism has become such a public concern in this country when terrorism on a grand scale was being conducted by both sides in Ireland, a country held in such esteem by many enclaves throughout this land.

This is quite a superior thriller, very realistic and on a par with Le Carre, if a bit less introspective.