A Real James Bond?
The Invisible Harry Gold:
The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb
Allen M. Hornblum
(New Haven, Yale University Press, 2010)
[This article appears on pp. 116-117, Summer/Fall 2011 issue, Volume 18, Number 3, of The Intelligencer magazine, published by the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers (AFIO)]
In The Invisible Harry Gold, author Allen M. Hornblum lets the story speak for itself. Nevertheless, undercurrents of irony exude throughout Harry Gold’s tale. While people like FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called him a “master Soviet spy” (p. ix), Mr. Hornblum attributes the secret to Gold’s success to his lack of personality.
Sledgehammer and Gnat
The Fear Within
Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial
By Scott Martelle
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011)
[This article appears on pp. 117-118 in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue, Volume 18, Number 3, of The Intelligencer magazine, published by the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers [AFIO)]
In The Fear Within, Scott Martelle writes about a pre-McCarthy trial, which helped set the tone of the 1950s: Dennis v US. He mines his subject well. The nuggets he turns up command far more than a glimmer’s glance.
Miles Gone By
William F. Buckley, Jr.
(Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004)
By my last count, more than two thirds of the books published by William F. Buckley, Jr., contain references to Whittaker Chambers.
The majority of these references are re-workings of previous material — from a surprisingly few number of original pieces, if one checks.
Miles Gone By falls into a smaller group within those: a simple reprinting of “un-reworked” work, as it were. In this case, Buckley republished the final chapter from Odyssey of a Friend: Whittaker Chambers’ Letters to William F. Buckley, Jr., 1954-1961 (1969).
Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
What former U.S. president attempted the assassination of a prominent American journalist?
Author Mark Feldstein drops readers into an exciting moment in history as a prologue to his new book, Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture. The former journalist, now journalism professor packages his extensive research into the lives of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and columnist Jack Anderson. Any mention of Richard Nixon’s career is likely to bring up the name “Whittaker Chambers,” and Feldstein’s book is no exception.
America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag
By Sarah Palin
(New York: Harper, 2010)
Like a miracle — that is, miraculously in time for America’s biggest annual sales season — Sarah Palin called upon ghosts of Christmases past to fill the pages of her second book, America by Heart. Her publisher promised an “intimate and personal look” at the former Alaska governor by presenting reflections that “read like a bible of American virtues.” Instead, the goods delivered read like a cut-and-paste job: comments stuffed between quotes from famous people — often dead, thus unable to protest Palin’s (mis)treatment.
With the precision of a bullet
Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic
(New York: Random House, 2009)
It takes talent to write about someone else’s interesting life in a book that is interesting itself. The biographer would have to be, say, an author, scholar and translator. Such a person could write a biography about an intellectual polyglot, polymath, “journalist, novelist, essayist, autobiographer, and writer of scientific speculations” — and Casanova.
A User’s Guide
(Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008)
Biography requires insight, argues Dr. Carl Rollyson in his latest book, Biography: A User’s Guide. To appreciate the person studied — to trust the subject of a biography — the biographer must know the subject so well as to be able to assess the subject’s self-honesty. Rollyson discusses this issue on pp. 164-168. The subject is Martha Gellhorn; the biographical form, her letters (collected by Caroline Moorehead); the example, a look at Hiss Case protagonists Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss.