Some first novels arrive from nowhere and become milestones in their genres, touchstones to understanding the world through specific stories. Anthony Hyde’s first novel, THE RED FOX (1986), is such a book.
When journalist Robert Thorne’s ex-fiancee, May Brightman, asks him to locate her missing father, Thorne is wary. Years ago, May broke their engagement and cut Thorne adrift. Since then, he’s moved on. Despite himself, reluctantly, he agrees to search for Harry. Soon, he discovers that Harry wasn’t your ordinary fiance’s father. His background is as dark, conflicted and dangerous as any in contemporary fiction. Others are after Harry, too. Thorne is savvy. He knows that he is in over his head, and yet he follows the trail of clues anyway.
Evocative of time, place, character and motivation, THE RED FOX provides a strong sense of presence in a world dominated by Cold War espionage. Hyde’s deft literary hand displays the discipline and attitude of the journalist. His voice is often energetic, sometimes self-deprecating, always erudite. A remarkable achievement for a first novel.
Hyde published this novel just after John Le Carre’s THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL swept the market and advanced Le Carre’s already iconic standing as a master novelist. Robert Ludlum’s BOURNE SUPREMACY also came to bookstores that year. The average life was overshadowed by superpower tensions and yet change was in the wind. Whether for the better or the worse remained to be seen. Terror came from just two polarized political systems and their overwhelming national firepower. An entirely different world environment from the more complicated, fragmented terror we know today.
The story of THE RED FOX grows from diverse and intense emotions – anger, hurt, betrayal – and is delivered with a constancy that derives from a deeply embedded moral compass. It is visual and tactile and was a feast for readers of the late 1980’s who were navigating the changeable cultural seas between the pre- and post-Internet revolutions. Written in the pre-Internet time period, it is satisfying to re-experience the journalist’s life pre-Google and pre-smartphone, to be reminded of the discipline and skills required to ferret out disparate bits of information, connect the dots and develop understanding at a comparatively reflective pace. And yet, events move on apace and we are pulled from page to page, setting to sinister setting.