The Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 146:
William F. Buckley:
"It means a lot to me to say this: when I set out to explore the scene, I was determined to avoid one thing, and that was the kind of ambiguity for which Graham Greene and to a certain extent Le Carr�became famous. There you will find that the agent of the West is, in the first place, almost necessarily unappealing physically. He drinks too much, he screws too much and he’s always being cuckolded. Then, at some dramatic moment there is the conversation or the moment of reflection in which the reader is asked to contemplate the difficulty in asserting that there is a qualitative difference between Them and Us. This I wanted to avoid. So I was searching, really, for a little bit of the purity of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd in Blackford Oakes. Billy Budd has no sense of humor, and without a sense of humor you can’t be genuinely American. Therefore, Blackford Oakes couldn’t be Billy Budd. Furthermore, I made him almost spectacularly good-looking in defiant reaction to these semidisfigured characters that Greene and Le Carr�and Len Deighton specialize in."