The Corner


Remembering WFB, and Blacky

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Bill Meehan knows a thing or two or a thousand about the voluminous writings of Our Founder: He is the editor of Conversations with William F. Buckley Jr. and an earlier WFB bibliography. Today, The University Bookman runs a sweet essay by Bill — “Who Is Blackford Oakes?” — discussing conservatism’s fictional anti-Commie hero, who was first introduced by WFB in his 1976 best seller Saving the Queen. (There were eleven “Blacky” novels in all). I recommend Meehan’s essay, and hereby share a part:

The point of the Blackford Oakes novels is that the world of espionage and counterespionage is what Buckley calls a “moral art,” an idea captured again by the omniscient narrator in Saving the Queen: “We might in secure conscience lie and steal in order to secure the escape of human beings from misery and death: Stalin had no right to lie and steal in order to bring misery and death to others. Yet, viewed without paradigmatic moral coordinates, simpletons would say simply: Both sides lied and cheated — a plague on both your houses.”

And the American doing the right thing for the good guys in the plot-driven Cold War fiction by William F. Buckley Jr. is worth getting to know — if for no other reason than this: “I made Blackford Oakes such a shining perfection to irritate, infuriate the critics,” Buckley states in a 1985 interview. “And I scored!”

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