Q Clearance Summary & Study Guide

Peter Benchley
This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Q Clearance.
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Q Clearance Summary & Study Guide Description

Q Clearance Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Mild mannered Timothy Burnham is a low-level speechwriter for the President of the United States. A string of coincidences lead to his promotion as the President's most trusted advisor. His marriage falls apart at the same time, leaving him open to the charms of Eva and her father, a Soviet spy. When Eva reveals her true identity, Burnham launches a last minute effort to save his good name and disappear from politics forever. The novel provides a humorous glimpse into the nature of American politics and the random chances that direct the future of the free world.

Timothy Burnham works as a low-level speechwriter for the President of the United States. Technically, he works for the Department of Energy, which makes him eligible for Q Clearance. Q Clearance means that Burnham has access to top-secret atomic energy documents. Burnham has no technical knowledge about the subject and thinks that Q Clearance is a joke. He does not take care to protect the important documents that come across his desk, leaving them available for those who would like to share them with the Soviet Union.

Ivy Peniston cleans offices at the Executive Office Building where Burnham works. Her son has failed to get his high school diploma and Ivy hopes to be able to get one for him on the black market. She knows Foster Pym, a local caterer, has connections that might help her. She takes documents from Burnham's office to trade with Pym for a forged high school diploma. What she does not know is that Pym is a Soviet spy.

Burnham is called into the Oval Office to be fired by the President for a mistake in a speech he wrote for the President. Burnham's secretary pins a paper with fake telephone messages to the front of Burnham's folder. This paper includes a fake phone message from a high Soviet official. When the President sees the fake phone message, he decides not to fire Burnham, thinking that Burnham has contacts in the Soviet government. Instead, the President promotes Burnham as his highest advisor and gives him a new office right next to the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Burnham's marriage is collapsing. When his wife kicks him out, he meets Eva Pym, the daughter of the Soviet spy, Foster Pym. They begin a sexual relationship that gives Eva access to his office at the White House. Eva takes pictures of important documents with a pair of spyglasses and her father sends the pictures on to the Soviets. Eva eventually confesses to Burnham that she is a spy. The two of them hide out at the YMCA while Burnham puts together a plan to clear his good name.

Burnham enters the White House late at night and goes into the office of the Special Assistant to the President, Mario Epstein. He finds some micro cassette tapes that Epstein has used to record private conversations between himself and the President without the President's knowledge. Burnham takes the tapes in order to blackmail Epstein and get his name cleared by the President. A few days later, the President holds a press conference and announces that there is not a spy in the White House and that Burnham had been part of a top secret mission designed to give false information to the Soviets. Burnham disappears and the President regrets the loss of his closest advisor.

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