In The Tehran Conviction, Gabbay’s latest historical spy thriller, he takes a close look at the role of the CIA in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s charismatic, nationalist Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. In this prequel (Teller appears in two earlier Gabbay novels, The Lisbon Crossing, set in 1940 and The Berlin Conspiracy, set in the 1960s) we see Teller when he is first recruited by The Company. The interview process is a bit different today. He is placed in a position of considerable responsibility, tasked with seeing to it that the Shah is returned to power. What’s a guy with some scruples to do? Jack is no saint and he is hardly without sin, but he is faced with difficult moral choices here.
It is an easy choice for readers. This is a fast-moving, engaging read that rewards our attention both with action and adventure, a sympathetic lead character, some very interesting supporting actors and considerable payload in the form of insight into how and why this major event took place.
What were the mechanisms by which the CIA and MI6 staged this momentous coup? Gabbay offers a street-level look at some of the tools used, without getting into excessive detail. We know, for instance, that the West paid locals to stir up trouble, that military leaders were bought, that media was manipulated. Sound familiar?
Gabbay sprinkles his tale with historical nods, putting General Zahedi, the actual local instrument of the coup, into a small scene. Two characters share the family name Fatemi, recalling Hossein Fatemi, Mossadegh’s young foreign minister, the person who pushed Mossadegh to nationalize Iran’s oil resources. I am sure there are many more such references. Actual historical figures appear as well. Kermit Roosevelt has a few lines. He was indeed in charge of Operation Ajax, the coup scheme. All these spices enrich the tale-telling.
He throws in some code-words for today’s world. On page 233 a CIA officer says “We’re fighting ‘em here, so we don’t have to fight ‘em back home.” Then again a little further on, “…this is just the first battle in a long, dirty war…”
Where will Gabbay take us next, Indonesia, Guyana, Guatemala, Chile or one of the many other places in which the CIA has worked, or attempted to work its magic? (see a presumed hint on page 260). Wherever it is, it is sure to be an exciting, informative adventure, well worth reading.