TORPEDOED: An American Businessman's True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Imprisonment in Russia, and the Battle to Set Him Free
Traveling in the former Soviet Union as a private contractor—buying declassified technology that made its way from the military into Russia's newly freed consumer markets—Pope trips into the nightmarish world of post–Cold War Russia. Written with Tom Shactman (The FBI-KGB War; Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold), this volume moves as quickly as its name suggests, at least initially: Pope, a former U.S. naval attaché and intelligence officer, gets thrown in prison within the first few pages. Accused of spying for the United States, he suffers indignities (strip searches, "mind games") and intimidation (he's told he belongs with terrorists and "serious criminals") from the new state security guards. The indictment stems from his interest in the country's "sensitive" Shkval torpedo, but what worries Pope the most once he's officially charged with espionage is his memory of "126 special clearances on matters of high importance to the security of the United States." After all, he writes, the interrogations are intense and "you don't just scrub [what you know] from your memory." Pope's fight for freedom is hampered by the questionable justice of the Russian legal system and a frustrating lack of support from the U.S. Embassy, and the book appropriately—though unfortunately—begins to drag once his days in jail stretch into months. Readers may find Pope's portraits of the new Russians too tiredly reminiscent of the old guard, and the degrading nicknames he uses to designate his interrogators (Little Feliks, Blubber-Butt, etc.) undermine the seriousness of his situation. But overall, this is a page-turner, a great spy story that nearly encourages nostalgia for Cold War spy politics. (Nov.)
Forecast:Pope's refusal to grant any interviews since his December 2000 release will likely create intrigue, and his striking story will probably appeal to conspiracy theorists, Cold War history buffs, and James Bond fans alike.