An unusual, entertaining story of steadfast friendship amid governmental treachery.

BEST OF ENEMIES

THE LAST GREAT SPY STORY OF THE COLD WAR

A rollicking tale of Cold War espionage focused on the improbable bond between a macho CIA agent and his KGB counterpart.

Russo (Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, 2006, etc.) and Dezenhall (Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal, 2014, etc.) offer a well-researched account, intersecting with the CIA’s betrayal by Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. The institutional pursuit of these turncoats, who caused “a staggering amount of damage,” involved many of the principals here. Previously, in both Washington and Moscow in the 1970s and ’80s, spies with diplomatic covers often became entangled in each other’s recruitment schemes. Rakish, outgoing KGB officer Gennady Vasilenko became involved in the D.C. diplomats’ amateur athletics, making him a prime target of CIA officer Jack Platt, a larger-than-life, hard-living agency tactician. While neither agreed to “cross over” to provide their country’s secrets, they developed a genuine friendship. “Both men were patriotic risk takers,” write the authors. “Both loved their chosen professions and had no respect for the desk jockeys.” Although Platt participated in an operation to “turn” Vasilenko, he respected the Russian’s determination to remain loyal. But KGB suspicions of Vasilenko’s rule-bending ethos prevailed, and he was lured home, imprisoned, and expelled from the service. When the Soviet Union collapsed, his American connections enabled him to pursue business opportunities with Platt, as did many ex–Russian spies. However, the 2001 arrest of Hanssen led Vasilenko’s erstwhile colleagues to target him; he was arrested a few years later and again imprisoned over old allegations of collusion. Following five years of often brutal treatment, Platt’s CIA colleagues added Vasilenko to an exchange for the Russian “illegals” notoriously arrested in 2010 after years of deep-cover spying, finally permitting him a bittersweet American retirement. Russo and Dezenhall aptly capture this complex narrative, based on its protagonists’ long-classified recollections, though the focus on their outsized personalities can be repetitive.

An unusual, entertaining story of steadfast friendship amid governmental treachery.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5387-6131-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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