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18 November 2018

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Stalin's American Spy

Tony Sharp (Hurst, $35)

In these pages I recently reviewed a book on Duncan Lee, a Soviet spy who worked as a top aide to US intelligence chief “Wild Bill” Donovan during World War II. This new work is of the same era, but the spy story is entirely different.

Noel Field was a Soviet agent working in the US Department of State during the 1930s. After the war, a ruse lured him to Prague and he was imprisoned and interrogated, turned on by the very Soviet masters for whom he had spied. Stalin, it turns out, needed a western patsy to bolster the spurious claims of his showtrials. Field was that patsy.

But, as Sharp shows, that may only be half of the story. Field, evidence suggests, may have been a double agent who infiltrated the Communist Party of the USA at the behest of Allen Dulles, pretending to work for the Soviets until he was tricked into traveling to Eastern Europe.

A well researched and fascinating read that illuminates the dark world of Soviet spies in the US and sheds some light on the mechanisms and motivations for Stalin’s show trials, beyond that of discrediting his political enemies, of course.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2014