The Washington Post
Filled with dramatic revelations, The Lost Spy may be the most important American spy story to come along in a generation.
The Washington Post
Former TimeMoscow correspondent Meier (Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall) tells a remarkable story about Cy Oggins, a Columbia University undergraduate who joined the fledgling Communist Party in 1920. Recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1926, he went to Europe in the guise of an academic; his residences acted as centers for Soviet espionage. After 1930 he sailed to China and Manchuria for various undercover schemes, then traveled to Moscow in 1939 during Stalin's purges. Despite long, loyal service, he was arrested and sent to an Arctic gulag and despite frantic pleas for Oggins's release from his wife, and more modest U.S. government efforts, the Soviets murdered Oggins in 1947 to keep his story from getting out. In Soviet archives, Meier saw a heavily censored fraction of Oggins's 162-page file, supplemented by the FBI's massive records, compiled thanks to J. Edgar Hoover's lifelong fixation on Communists. These files plus the author's extensive research have produced a rich account of American communism's early years as well as the bizarre, tragic odyssey of an American who devoted his life to serving the U.S.S.R. 16 pages of illus. (Aug. 11)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Journalist/historian Meier (Black Earth) draws a well-written, comprehensive portrait of the life of American-born Soviet operative Isaiah "Cy" Oggins. He uses interviews with Oggins's American son, U.S. diplomatic and intelligence files, and an abridged copy of Oggins's KGB/Soviet archive file to inform his study while proposing intelligent scenarios for the story's undocumented and shadowy periods. Actor/narrator David Chandler (Copper River) gives a clear and articulate reading, especially when the narrative's complexity and shifting time lines require heightened listener concentration. A great addition to nonfiction collections. [With tracks every three minutes for bookmarking; the Norton hc was "highly recommended," LJ4/1/08.-Ed.]
Kristen L. Smith
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
Andrew Meier, the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall, is a recent Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers and currently a writer-in-residence at the New School University. He lives in New York City.
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If you like LeCarre and Alan Furst, this is for you. All the drama and turns of a spy thriller, but one big difference: the story of the life--and death--of Cy Oggins is true. It must be one of the most bizarre, and important tales from history of US-Soviet relations.
Robin Oggins, 70 years old in 2001, was on the eve of retirement from a teaching career in New York when he heard from the author. During that first (telephone) conversation, Robin told Meier, "This is the call I've been waiting for my whole life." (p 9) Robin had not seen his father since 1938, in Paris, when Isaiah left his wife and seven-year old son for the last time. (p 12) Within a year, Isaiah would be arrested in Moscow, forced to serve an eight-year sentence for a crime he did not commit, and horrifically exterminated by direct order of Stalin in 1947. Andrew Meier's moving narrative is structured in an interesting way and one more often seen in motion pictures than books. He presents chronologically (Isaiah's birth, childhood, school years, etc.) but then he "interrupts" the background with the first of a four part story series on the ill-fated years following Oggins arrest. The first story-Oggins time at the Lubyanka prison---is followed by more elaborate and surprisingly detailed accounts of his time at the Norilsk gulag, the Butyrka prison and his execution. Meier reconstructed these crucial years by conducting interviews with survivors and/or their children and delving into the government archives of the United States, China, England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Russia and Switzerland. He even includes copies of some of the key documents. The National Security Agency documents (of the United States) included coded/decoded messages, but the truly shocking documents came from the various Russian agencies. It is hard for any American over the age of 25 to conceive of such Soviet forthrightness. (Verily, though, many of the documents were missing words or even whole phrases.) To American spectators of the Cold War or even its détente and final dissolution, the former Soviet Union (especially under Josef Stalin!) was a monolithic monster; an evil empire. What on earth could compel a young, bright, American* man to leave his home and his family and become a spy for the Soviets? (*Oggins, though the child of Russian immigrants, was born in the United States and never renounced his American citizenship.) Meier attempts to answer that question by recreating the world in which Oggins grew. He carefully chronicles Oggins years in the small mill town of Willimantic, Connecticut. Like so many other mill towns across the United States in early part of the 20th century, labor unrest reflected the unseemly face of industry while revealing the growing attractiveness of socialism and communism. Oggins, as a very impressionable young man, came of age precisely as labor struggles reached his humble town. When he later studied at Columbia in New York, he met, associated with and befriended others who, like he, supported the great Communist ideal: the Comintern. Oggins even married a woman of the cause. Nerma enthusiastically joined her husband as an agent of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s. They, like so many other Communist devotees in Europe, were part of an elaborate spy network, shuffling information (on every conceivable level) back to Moscow. However, when Nerma gave birth to their only child, a son they named Robin, she returned to the United States and essentially "retired." Isaiah, on his own, continued as a spy for the Soviet Union and spent years in France and China. It was during a trip to Moscow in 1939 that he was arrested by the very people he had been serving. Meier presents a comp
A very well written and well researched book.
Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!