September 20, 1982 12:00 PM

by Richard Elman

It is the author’s little joke that the faculty at Columbia University is full of ex-CIA agents. (One hopes it’s a joke, anyway.) They talk in a code made up of recipe names, foods and exotic dishes. Elman even supplies a glossary to help readers understand that beer actually means “death, killing, as in ‘Let’s have a beer'”; dessert is a congressional inquiry and the Jolly Green Giant is a helicopter. The hero has been coaxed back into active duty to have a beer with a turncoat female agent after a co-worker has been fed into a paper shredder. The result is more confusing than funny. Elman, author of a number of other books (including a novelized version of the Taxi Driver screenplay), may have had fun writing this send-up of the spy thriller. But only his fans will find it fun to read. (Macmillan, $12.95)

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