The Traitor

by William L. Shirer. Farrar, Straus, $3.00.
The traitor of Mr. Shirer’s first novel is clearly patterned after an American journalist, now in jail for life, whose shortwave broadcasts from Berlin it was my painful duty to listen to daily during the first year of the war. With the Nazi era in Germany as background, Shirer sets out to explain what makes Oliver Knight turn traitor. As far as psychology is concerned, I found Mr. Shirer’s diagnosis persuasive, but his story and characters never quite achieve a fictional life of their own. The fact that Shirer is writing about what actually happened heightens the impact of the novel; the novel does not heighten the impact of what actually happened. Skillful reportage, though, makes The Traitor an extremely readable fictionalization of recent history.