MANHUNT by Peter Maas
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Gripping account of the life and times of high-roiling spy and armaments dealer Edwin P. Wilson, called the Great Gatsby of the spook world (but who later became the murder-mad Kurtz of Heart of Darkness), and of the investigation and final trap which led to his trial and present very long jail terms at a federal penitentiary; by the author of Serpico, The Valachi Papers and Made in America. The manhunt for Wilson lasted nearly four years and spanned three continents. On the surface, it is the story of a former CIA operative who ""placed himself in the service of the Libyan dictator and godfather of international terrorism, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi."" At the time Wilson fell in with Qaddafi, the Muslim madman had only recently taken over the reins of Libya and was now leading it on a $12-billion military spending spree which could afford any armaments fantasy that Wilson would offer to make come true. One of the Libyans' greatest hungers was for plastique, the puttylike explosive and perfect device for the Libyans' multinational assassination teams, and at one point in 1977 Wilson had bought 27 tons of plastique (every single pound available from all US factories making it) and shipped nearly all to Libya. Meanwhile, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post had turned up former CIA agent Wilson's name while investigating the flesh car-bomb murder of a former Chilean ambassador. This story, as well as a concurrent FBI investigation into whether or not Wilson was an unregistered Libyan agent, fell into the hands of young Larry Barcella, deputy chief of the elite Major Crimes Unit in the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Eventually, Barcella was so incensed by Wilson's activities that he vowed not to shave until he had Wilson behind bars. The book tells of the jockeying between the alerted Wilson and pursuer Barcella; Wilson, who felt amused and impregnable, roguishly tried to charm Barcella out of his monomania. Barcella, though, had other problems: he knew who the criminals were--but what, legally, was the crime? Wilson was not operating as a spy or foreign agent but as head of various international companies, using an expertise he'd gained as a covert operations mastermind for the CIA. What Wilson counted on was that problems in the intelligence community were usually swept under the rug and culprits let go--the ""last thing you had to worry about was a criminal prosecution."" An even greater problem for Barcella was how to lure Wilson out of Tripoli to some flee zone where he could be arrested by US marshalls. With a forthcoming cover story in The New York Times Magazine, this should--deservedly--do well indeed.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Random House