HARRY GOLD by Millicent Dillon


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Brooding, creepy fictional biography of the Jewish-American chemist who became a courier for the Soviets before and

during WWII and was significant in the exposure of Klaus Fuchs and the conviction of the Rosenbergs.

The sensational spy stories of the “50s have been deflated by post-Cold War revelations that information allegedly leaked

by Americans accused of serving the Soviets was not all that consequential. After Whittaker Chambers, the most pathetic

American to plead guilty to espionage during the Red scare, was introverted Harry Gold, who lived with his brother and

Russian-born parents in Philadelphia. Gold, a profoundly uninteresting bachelor whose underwhelming presence deflated

Hoover's attempt to cast him as the embodiment of evil, dictated several detailed confessions to the FBI. He testified as a

prosecution witness against the Rosenbergs, served half of a 30-year prison sentence, and then worked as a researcher in a

hospital, dying at his parents' house in 1972. Gold has none of the glitter that appeals to biographers, but, as fictionalized by

Dillon (You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles, 1998, etc.), he becomes a classic le Carr‚ drudge, an intelligent, repressed

social failure whose innocent urge to do good and suspicion of anti-Semitic Depression-era America make him an easy mark

for Soviet recruiters. In dry, restrained prose, Dillon shows how Gold's hunger for human contact helps him ignore the

hypocrisies and manipulations of his handlers. As a courier moving documents and money, he spends long hours on lonely trains,

transfixed by the glamour his secret life provides. After building him up as an existential hero worthy of Graham Greene, Dillon

piles on the irony, quoting long, patronizing passages from his trial and suggesting Gold's essential tragedy was that no one

cared enough to know him.

Intense, disturbing fictional portrait of a historical also-ran whose unshakable faith in human goodness, and deeply moving

sense of loyalty, made it easy to betray his country.

Pub Date: April 21st, 2000
ISBN: 1-58567-012-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000


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