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Pick of the Paperbacks; Who's On First, by William F. Buckley Jr. New York: Avon Books. $2.95.

March 9, 1981



This smartly told morality tale involves the competition between the superpowers to put the first satellite into space (circa 1956). This sprint leads to the temporary kidnapping of a gifted Soviet scientist and his wife, the murder of a Hungarian freedom fighter, scenes from the Soviet "archipelago," and a devious plot to do away with CIA agent Blackford Oakes. It is a wide-ranging affair with the interesting twist being the well- known Soviet success in the race.

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The cast includes a Soviet spymaster covertly devoted to Russian literature; a beautiful and cunning Hungarian partisan; two grave and charming Russian scientists; the alluring wife of one of them; and of course Blackford Oakes, Buckley's subaltern ego, a fellow whose bounty, vigor, and curiosity exceed even that of his celebrated progenitor.