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  • Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 by Nicholas Reynolds
  • Ron McFarland
Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961. By Nicholas Reynolds. HarperCollins, 2017. Illustrated. 357 pp. Cloth $27.99.

Without devoting extensive time to the matter, I can confidently assert that between early June 2016 and the end of 2017 at least ten new books will have surfaced on Ernest Hemingway, ranging from Lesley Blume's Everybody Behaves Badly (early June 2016), a commentary on the world of The Sun Also Rises and a New York Times bestseller, to Mary V. Dearborn's ambitious Ernest Hemingway: A Biography (late June 2017) out of Knopf at more than 700 pages including notes and index. Perhaps Dearborn's bio will outshine James M. Hutchisson's Ernest Hemingway: A New Life (mid-July 2016) from the Penn State University Press, but who knows? Can serious Hemingway scholars omit any of these from their reading list? And then what about those more specialized or more narrowly focused titles such as Andrew Farah's Hemingway's Brain (University of South Carolina Press, mid-April 2017), James McGrath Morris's The Ambulance Drivers (Da Capo Press, late March 2017), on the Hemingway-Dos Passos relationship, or Terry Mort's book on Hem's "adventures" as a WWII war correspondent, or Ashley Oliphant's volume on Papa in Bimini and "the birth of sport fishing," or Steve Paul's Hemingway at Eighteen (Chicago Review Press, early October 2017), or Tony Castro's commentary on Hem in Spain for that last round of bullfights (Lyons Press, mid-November 2016)? [End Page 158]

Comes forth now (mid-March 2017) the book at hand, Nicholas Reynolds's Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, with a nod to John Le Carré's 1974 espionage novel, although no reader will be likely to perceive Ernest Hemingway as analogue to George Smiley. A colonel in the Marine Corps reserves, former CIA agent and history librarian, and holder of a doctorate from Oxford University, Reynolds brings considerable qualifications to bear on the subject, and his research boasts both scope and depth. His other books include a monograph on Marine operations in Panama including Operation Just Cause (1988-1990), a book on the Corps in the Caribbean during the 1990s, and a more ambitious volume on the USMC in Iraq during the year 2003, Basrah, Baghdad, and Beyond (2005). In his brief introduction, Reynolds describes himself as a "lifelong Hemingway admirer" and claims it "felt like [he] had taken an elbow deep in the gut" when he read that Hemingway had "signed on with the NKVD" (xix).

In the Acknowledgements, Reynolds credits John Earl Haynes, whose 2009 book, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press) co-authored with Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, outlines efforts of NKVD operative Jacob Golos to recruit Hemingway in 1941. Haynes et al. devote just three pages to the matter in the chapter titled "The Journalist Spies," sub-title "Hemingway: The Dilettante Spy," indicating that agents met with the supposedly cooperative author perhaps half a dozen times between 1941 and 1948. Although Hemingway was "infatuated with espionage" (153), as various biographers have noted over the decades, Hemingway proved of no apparent use to the NKVD or their KGB successors.

Reynolds begins appropriately with the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that caused the deaths of some 458 workers, many of them WWI veterans, in the middle Keys. Hemingway's vitriolic response, "Who Murdered the Vets?," was published in the U.S. Communist Party's periodical New Masses, reflecting either his disesteem for FDR and the New Deal, or his interest in the agenda of the political Left (including perhaps the CPUSA), or something else entirely. Hemingway's politics have remained a fraught subject over the years, and many if not most biographers have elected to give it the once-over lightly, often conceding that even when he was at his most overtly "political"—during the 1930s as evidenced by his novel To Have and Have Not (1937), and during his time spent as a NANA correspondent during the Spanish Civil War as evidenced by his novel...


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