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Audiobook Review – Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief

If you’re looking for an intriguing look into the inner workings of the KGB from the beginning of the Cold War until its end, Tenant H. Bagley’s Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief should be in your collection.

From the dark days of World War II through the Cold War, Sergey A. Kondrashev was a major player in Russia’s notorious KGB espionage apparatus. Rising through its ranks through hard work and keen understanding of how the spy and political games are played, he “handled” American and British defectors, recruited Western operatives as double agents, served as a ranking officer at the East Berlin and Vienna KGB bureaus, and tackled special assignments from the Kremlin.

During a 1994 television program about former spymasters, Kondrashev met and began a close friendship with a former foe, ex–CIA officer Tennent H. “Pete” Bagley, whom the Russian asked to help write his memoirs.

Because Bagley knew so about much of Kondrashev’s career (they had been on opposite sides in several operations), his penetrating questions and insights reveal slices of never-revealed espionage history that rival anything found in the pages of Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, or John le Carr. This includes chilling tales of surviving Stalin’s purges while superiors and colleagues did not, of plotting to reveal the Berlin Tunnel, of quelling the Hungarian Revolution and “Prague Spring” independence movements, and of assisting in arranging the final disposition of the corpses of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Kondrashev also details equally fascinating KGB propaganda and disinformation efforts that shaped Western attitudes throughout the Cold War.

Because publication of these memoirs was banned by Putin’s regime, Bagley promised Kondrashev to have them published in the West. They are now available to all who are fascinated by vivid tales of international intrigue.

Spymaster follows the career and exploits of Sergei Kondrashev as he wended his way through the different departments and intrigues of Soviet state security between the end of World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union. We hear about everything from the subversion of staff at the American embassy in Moscow to the suppression of anti-Communist movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The author’s obvious personal connection with Kondrashev, as well as his own experience as Kondrashev’s competitor in the CIA, gives Spymaster a seasoned, well thought out perspective on the shadowy workings behind the scenes in some of the most important bits of modern European and global history.

Bronson Pinchot is a master storyteller, and his narration of Spymaster was just another example of his art. His pacing is, as always, in that sweet spot of not too fast, but not too slow. He does an excellent job of keeping the listener’s attention and helping to visualize the scenes and people that flow through the book.

If you’re interested in true-life spy-versus-spy stories, or are just a history buff who needs to fill in some blanks about the Cold War, I think you’ll enjoy Spymaster.

1 Comment

  1. Old NFO

     /  December 31, 2020

    Ordered, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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