THE SPY WHO SEDUCED AMERICA: Lies and Betrayal in the Heart of the Cold War

Marcia Mitchell, Author, Thomas Mitchell, Author, Thomas Mitchell, Joint Author . Invisible Cities $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-931229-22-7

On March 4, 1949, Justice Department staffer Judith Coplon and her Russian lover were arrested. The charge: spying for the Soviets. Coplon's trials and appeals would mesmerize the nation ("her fan mail rivaled that of Bette Davis," the authors report). But even after a partial vindication by the Supreme Court, there were still questions about her guilt. The husband-and-wife authors—he is a former FBI agent involved in the Coplon case—attempt to answer those questions once and for all. They painstakingly flesh out and dramatize court transcripts, especially those from Coplon's first trial, and analyze the results. It's an odd approach: imagine Court TV in print. Much weight is given to the histrionics of Coplon's lawyer; the shocking (for the time) allegations about Coplon's sex life; and the revelations about FBI perjury and illegal wiretapping. Yet the theatrical presentation fails to breathe life into the enigma that was Coplon. Perhaps most interesting is the Mitchells' ongoing dispute about key aspects of the case, especially whether or not Coplon was framed by the FBI. Regardless, it's clear now—based on declassified Venona documents and statements from former KGB officials—that she had been a Soviet spy since 1944. This is a useful addition to Cold War scholarship that will appeal to students of espionage and the Cold War era. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)

Forecast:A six-city author tour and an unspecified event on the QE2 will bring attention to this. Review coverage may be aided by the release of Kathryn Olmsted's Red Spy Queen, a bio of notorious woman spy Elizabeth Bentley (Forecasts, Aug. 5), also in October.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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