Thursday, 21 January 2016

My review of 'Strangers on a Bridge'

I probably don't read as much autobiographical material as I should, and this book - 'Strangers on a Bridge'  by James B. Donovan - highlights why I might be missing out.

It's a fascinating account of the court case against Colonel Rudolf Abel, a Russian spy uncovered in the US in 1957, and defended by James Donovan, a lawyer and former member of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services and forerunner to the CIA), who is also the author.

To say Donovan was reluctant is understandable. He faced a lot of hostility from colleagues and the public for defending 'a commie spy', as they saw it, caught with clear evidence of his occupation and guilt.

But Donovan was a bulldog who believed in every man's right (whether spies or not) to a defence under the American system of justice. Further, he did not want to see Abel consigned to the electric chair, and firmly believed that he could be useful if an American were arrested by the Russians in similar circumstances. If Abel were dead, he argued, what protection for an American spy?

(As it happened, there was such a possibility, when American U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in 1960 and sentenced to hard labour. This part of Donovan's argument wasn't the sole defence he put forward by a long shot).

However, it worked, and led to a prisoner exchange on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in 1962, recently the subject of a movie starring Tom Hanks - 'Bridge of Spies'. (Note - I haven't seen the movie so this review is not a comparison.

Read my review here on Shots Magazine website.


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