STRANGERS ON A BRIDGE: The Case of Colonel Abel by James B. Donovan

STRANGERS ON A BRIDGE: The Case of Colonel Abel

Email this review


Colonel Rudolf Ivanovich Abel was the Soviet secret agent whom the F.B.I. ushed out of the artist's studio in Brooklyn where he had been receiving and sending for a long time, and James Donovan (former O.S.S. Colonel) is the lawyer who assumed his defense as a proof of American justice and the belief that no man should be denied a fair trial. Donovan contends that it is a ""classic case which eserves classic treatment"". If by ""classic"", he means inherently interesting and enduringly puzzling- as was the Hiss case-, it is not; and to pursue the point, this is not a ""classic treatment"" beyond the fact that it is a particularly thorough and exhaustive one. The first two thirds of the book is based on Donovan's diaries of the case, from his pre-trial activities and protest over the FBI's search and eizure tactics, to the trial itself with extensive excerpts from the transcript; the many objections- Donovan's- overruled; the long testimony of Abel's former de, Hayhanen, an alcoholic, liar, bigamist; the cavalcade of lesser witnesses; the summations; and the sentence- thirty years. There was no question in anyone's mind (or pretense on Abel's part) that he was anything but guilty. Once the case moves outside of this Brooklyn courtroom it does have points of interest; notably bel himself, a very cultivated man, whose equanimity was rarely disturbed and whose humor is engaging. His correspondence with Donovan continues after his transfer to Atlanta where he was very busy making Christmas cards; also that of his wife; or rather two wives-- one proved to be an ersatz ""Hellen"" Abel in East Berlin. And of course the final phase of his case, his exchange on a bridge for -2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and Yale student Frederick L. Pryor, is perhaps the ost dramatic part of it... Attention seems likely although the extensive legal detail and trial documentation may deter the general reader; this is just one opinion which could well be reversed.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1964
Publisher: Atheneum