Of Captains and Kings. The Authors Collection.

C and K cvrHe referred to them as the “deadly quiet men” and their organization as “The Circle.”

He was also a member.

He had helped make careers for politicians and rulers — and destroy their opponents.

He was, like his compatriots, a master puppeteer who controlled the puppets with money.

He had begun with no money.

He had escaped the Irish potato famine and arrived in America with nothing but a dying mother and two younger siblings who depended on him.

He worked hard, made shrewd decisions, and benefitted from the luck of the Irish with immaculate timing.

His name was Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh — J. Miriam Reback’s literary counterpart of Joseph Patrick Kennedy.

Reback was known to millions as the author of Captains and the Kings (along with over sixty other novels, many of which were bestsellers), Taylor Caldwell.  She begins her novel (obviously parallelling the Kennedy family saga) with the obligatory disclaimer that, “All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.” Yeah. Right. Then in the introduction, she quotes JFK when he spoke of the “Gnomes of Zurich.” Her novel is a “rags to riches” story of a young immigrant who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. It is a romance worthy of Nora Roberts but not “chick lit.” Captains and the Kings is a political thriller about money, power, international intrigue, banking, and political maneuvering. Dare I call it conspiracy?


She writes of the Committee on Foreign Studies and strongly hints in the bibliography that it is the real life Council on Foreign Relations.  The narrator is concerned about the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in America (to control the economy), a federal income tax (to finance wars), and child labor laws. Caldwell doesn’t attempt to persuade the reader of the existence of the secret organizations in her book. She prefers to write with the assumption that they are real and have exerted controlling influence on world affairs since the American Civil War. No wonder Captains and the Kings appeals to such a wide variety of readers.

I planned to read Captains and the Kings in 1976, four years after it came out in print. I did not get started reading until just before Thanksgiving  2013. I finished three days after Christmas. Captains and the Kings is not a short, quick read and not for many of today’s readers who don’t want to use a dictionary while reading and are incessantly looking for but two words — “The End.”

Similar to the writing of Caldwell, the plots and characters of my first two novels are influenced by an international secret organization. In The Tourist Killer, my main character, an assassin, frequently gets assignments from “The Council.”  In The Presidents Club, the plot is driven by the influence of “The Council” on the lives and actions of every character, including the President of the United States.

If you want an education, and have the time, read Taylor Caldwell.

If you want two quick and entertaining reads (see the reviews), pick up The Tourist Killer and The Presidents Club, both part of the Barry-Hixon Conspiracy.



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