OVERWORLD: The Life and Times of a Reluctant Spy

Larry J. Kolb, Author
Larry J. Kolb, Author . Riverhead $24.95 (465p) ISBN 978-1-57322-253-2
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As Kolb spins a tale of international intrigue in which he does everything from accompany Muhammad Ali on a mission to free American hostages in Beirut to introduce Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega to an Indian holy man, it's awfully tempting to consider him a hoaxster à la Chuck Barris—but all it takes is a little online research to produce corroborating details. Kolb actually is connected to international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi by marriage; stories in Indian newspapers confirm that government wants him in connection with a plot against a former premier involving that same holy man. Pretty soon, a reader will believe that Kolb, the son of a Cold War intelligence operative who grew up in post-WWII Japan and Germany, really was recruited by legendary spy Miles Copeland because his jet-setting lifestyle put him in all the right places. Slangily written from a safe house "on a sunny shore," Kolb's recollection of his training in the fundamentals of spycraft is a particularly engrossing section that will leave readers convinced they know enough to run their own clandestine operations. It's the centerpiece around which he weaves a slew of anecdotes stretching back to WWII, producing a cumulative effect that renders the whole story so amazing that readers will conclude that even the wildest bits—like his taking credit for rewriting the blueprints for the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal—have got to be true. Agent, Joel Gotler . (Oct. 7)

Forecast: As Bond-like as Kim Philby, but with a decidely American accent, Kolb could turn out to have a sleeper hit; film rights have been bought by Mark Canton of Atmosphere Entertainment.

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