Take a gander at our guy, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. It's fifteen years since the end of WWII, and Campbell is hanging out in a jail cell in Israel awaiting trial. The world thinks he's a Nazi, but he says nay. What's the real deal?
Well, if we take Campbell's word for it, he was a spy. This secret agent man says that he was hanging out in Germany only pretending to be a sleazy propagandist for the Third Reich. On the DL, he was delivering coded messages to the English-speaking world.
While in jail, Campbell occupies his time chatting with his guards and writing his memoirs. It's complicated, because Campbell isn't exactly comfortable with what he's done, and he admits to having fanned some pretty nasty beliefs in the fiery minds of those ready to be hateful and violent—you know, like Nazis and their sympathizers. On the flip side, he really enjoyed the creative parts of being a spy. It was great to be an actor on the big Nazi stage.
See, Campbell was originally a playwright. He's also married to a hot actress. Basically, he's a big ham, and as a sleazy radio host in Nazi Germany, he gets to be "onstage." Nowadays, people just go on reality TV, but back then, you apparently had to turn to more desperate measures.
The bulk of the narrative jump, jump, jumps around. Basically, we get flashbacks, memories, and seemingly random segues to fill in the gaps for us. As Campbell remembers his life, he has a series of revelations about it. And what is revealed is that everything has been a disappointment.
For disappointments one through infinity, read on.
Campbell thinks he can hide in New York City after the war. But his BFF Kraft, who's really a Soviet spy, leaks his whereabouts to a white-supremacist newspaper. The leader of this newspaper reunites Campbell with his long-lost wife, Helga. Campbell and Helga have a steamy night getting reacquainted.
But then there's a twist: Helga's not Helga. She's her little sister Resi.
Insert screamy-face emoji.
At first Campbell is freaked out: he's been sleeping with his wife's little sister, who's just been pretending to be his wife. Ew? Like, really? But then Campbell figures, Meh, good enough. There's just one problem: Resi is also a Soviet spy, and she and Kraft are trying to get Campbell to Moscow for their own political ends.
Campbell's Blue Fairy Godmother (that's Colonel Wirtanen, the dude who recruited Campbell as a U.S. spy) tells him about Kraft and Resi's secret plans. Campbell goes back to the basement bunker he's hiding in with Kraft, Resi, and a handful of Nazi sympathizers, even though Wirtanen has told him the building is about to get raided by the police.
They're raided by the police.
Kraft and the boys get arrested, Resi kills herself with a cyanide pill, and Campbell gets released (spy privileges). He feels empty inside. He walks back to his apartment, where a guy named O'Hare is waiting for him. O'Hare doesn't know that Campbell was a spy; he thinks Campbell was a total traitor, and he's ready to rumble for patriotism. Too bad he's drunk and unarmed: Campbell breaks his arm with fire-tongs, and that's the end of that.
There's only one thing left for Campbell to do: turn himself in to Israel. Why? We never know for sure. Campbell does seem to feel guilty about what he's done. He's also probably kind of sick of running all the time.
Anyway, the narrative swings back around, and we find ourselves once more thinking, along with Campbell, about the impending trial. Campbell's goose seems to be nearly cooked, since only Wirtanen knows he was a spy, and that's supposed to remain a secret. But at the last minute, Wirtanen breaks the rules and writes a letter clearing Campbell's name.
Campbell is a free man again. He decides to kill himself.
And, yeah, seriously—that's the end.