During the Cold War the CIA's premier agent in the Soviet Union was a high-level intelligence officer named Oleg Penkovsky. For two years in the early 1960s he supplied the CIA with highly classified information on Soviet rocket strength and strategic planning, information that assisted President Kennedy in his handling of the world's first nuclear confrontation, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In the author's view, no spy in history has provided more useful material or had greater impact. Granted access to transcripts of Penkovsky's debriefings in Paris and London by U.S. and British intelligence, Schecter and Deriabin bring into focus for the first time Penkovsky's character and personality, his motivations for betraying his country, and the dimensions of the risks he took. The book concludes with a gripping account of how Penkovsky was caught by the KGB, his trial and 1963 execution. The authors call Penkovsky a fearless prophet whose heroism saved the world from nuclear war. A thoroughly good read, the book is rich in details of intelligence fieldcraft and specifics on how the CIA ``ran'' its operatives. Schecter is a former Time-Life bureau chief in Moscow; Deriabin, a former KGB official, defected to the West in 1954. Photos. (Mar.)
The most dangerous time of the recently concluded Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis. This book claims that the secret information transmitted by Oleg Penkovsky of Soviet Military Intelligence was vital in allowing the United States to prevail in October 1962. The possibility of global conflict was very real, and Penkovsky was even plotting to blow up the Soviet General Staff in case of war. The research for this book seems fairly solid; Schecter describes how he interviewed KGB officials in Moscow, and there is a chapter on the publication of The Penkovskiy Papers ( LJ 12/1/65), which coauthor Deriapin, himself a KGB defector, translated. The tale of Penkovsky, executed in 1963, reinforces the belief that the human factor is more important than the technological factor in espionage. This is a famous case, and there are many published sources to corroborate parts of this book. A well-organized story that is sure to fascinate those interested in intelligence activities and U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union. Recommended.-- Daniel K. Blewett, Loyola Univ. Lib., Chicago.
In a text as hyperbolic as its title, Schecter, a former Time-Life Moscow Bureau Chief, and Deriabin, a former KGB official who defected to the West in 1954, credit spy-counterspy Oleg Penkovsky with saving the world from nuclear war--twice!--during the Berlin crisis of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)