The discoveries that compelled their change of heart lend surprising twists to the narrative—one likely to be of great...
A former FBI agent and his coauthor spouse revisit a bungled, long-forgotten spy case and turn up the smoking gun.
Judith Coplon was an all-American girl, a brilliant, vivacious scholar who worked in the Justice Department during the late 1940s. She was also a committed communist who, in the words of former KGB spymaster Oleg Kalugin, “was an ideological spy rather than a mercenary. She was in it for her beliefs, like the Rosenbergs.” Unlike the Rosenbergs, however, Coplon did not die for her commitment to the communist cause; though she was ferreted out and arrested in 1949, the federal government could never assemble an incontrovertible case against her. For the next 18 years, however, the FBI saw to it that Coplon was a virtual prisoner within her own home. The authors (he is now a Georgia-Pacific executive; she wrote Management Strategies for Women, not reviewed) dust off old files in the matter, questioning why the government failed in its mission to convict Coplon. There were two main problems, they conclude: the FBI never produced a credible witness and could not produce some of the most convincing evidence because it would have revealed that the Bureau had broken Soviet code. Federal prosecutors therefore relied on innuendo, unproven allegations, and outright lies so patent that the presiding judge commented, “If the government could not have presented an honest case, it should not have been in the courtroom.” The authors started their research with sharply divided views, the Mitchells write: Marcia believed Coplon was innocent, and Thomas was convinced she was a Soviet agent fully aware of her treason. At the end of their well-written account, they agree that Coplon was indeed a spy.The discoveries that compelled their change of heart lend surprising twists to the narrative—one likely to be of great interest to students of Cold War history and true crime.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002
Page Count: 376
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002
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by David Grann ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.
During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Pub Date: April 18, 2017
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
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by Truman Capote ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 7, 1965
"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
Page Count: 343
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965
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