Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War

In This Review

Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War
By Giles Whittell
Broadway, 2010
304 pp. $24.99
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Whittell is a master storyteller, and the story here -- of three men seized during the Cold War -- is better than Hollywood's best. The world knew one of them as Rudolf Abel, but he was actually a Briton named William Fisher, who was brought to the Soviet Union as a child by parents captivated by Lenin's revolution, recruited into the KGB, and eventually made head of its operations in North America, until he was betrayed in 1957. Everyone knew Francis Gary Powers' name after his U-2 spy plane was shot down high over the Soviet Union, an incident that spoiled the 1960 Paris summit. And no one knew of Frederic Pryor, an American graduate student in Berlin arrested by the East German Stasi in 1961 as a spy, which he was not. In 1962, in a carefully choreographed prisoner exchange on Berlin's Glienicke Bridge and at Checkpoint Charlie, these three men were handed over to their respective countrymen. The story's utterly fascinating elements are Fisher's life as a spy and Powers' part in the U-2 enterprise, recounted in meticulous detail by Whittell. The stakes in both instances may not have been as dramatic as he claims, but the events were emblematic of the Cold War's more shadowy and adventurous aspects.

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