8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Spooks and U2s,
This review is from: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (Hardcover)
Giles Whittell is a natural-born reporter, a writer with an eye for detail and for the dramatic. Bridge of Spies is not just his version of the famous story of the U2 pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union and his swap with a legendary Russian spy. It's a thriller in its own right, with all the ingredients of an exceptionally well told and observed story. Whittell is a reporter in his element, writing on a subject he clearly finds fascinating and portraying Francis Gary Powers in a sympathetic light, unlike his CIA masters who appear to have resented the fact that he survived his traumatic shoot-down at 70,000ft and was imprisoned by the KGB, poviding the Russians with a propaganda trophy with which to berate the Americans.
What makes this book such a good read are the characters. They bring this story to life and provide the reader with an insight into an historical event which was not just about the politics of the Cold War but a personal account of people who were embroiled in some of the most daring and exciting exploits of that past era; and as we know from the more recent exposure of the Russian spy ring in the United States which included a beautiful and shapely female spy, Anna Chapman, espionage is not a dying profession. The Cold War, in a different disguise, goes on.
The secrecy of the U2 programme - the elegant silver (then black) aircraft which were supposedly part of the Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Number Two - the sheer endurance of the pilots like Powers, strapped for hours in space suits as they flew over the forbidden territory of the Soviet Union; the machinations of William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, who achieved very little despite a reputation for being a masterspy; and Frederic Pryor, the spy who never was a spy. All the components required for a thriller. I also loved the bravado of the American lawyer, James Donovan, Fisher's lawyer, and the woman who briefly stars in the story whose scoop was read around the world - Annette von Broecker, the Reuters "editorial assistant" (not even a reporter) who predicted that the spy swap between Powers and Fisher would take place at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge and while every other reporter was waiting at the more famous Checkpoint Charlie, she rushed off to the lesser known bridge and was in time to witness the handover. But she didn't even get her byline on the story - just a cup of hot chocolate from her colleagues by way of thanks! Another personal ingredient in a wonderful book.