Best of Enemies: The Last Great Spy Story of the Cold War by Gus Russo and Eric Dezenhall is a non-fiction book which narrates the relationship between KGB officer Gennady Semyovich Vasilenko and legendary CIA officer Jack Platt. Both Mr. Russo and Mr. Dezenhall are published writers with numerous works under their belts.
- 352 pages
- Publisher: Twelve
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1538761319
I love a good spy novel, a great one is even better, and a great non-fiction book which reads like a great spy novel is the best. Best of Enemies: The Last Great Spy Story of the Cold War by Gus Russo and Eric Dezenhall reads like the last one, an approachable and readable book about a complex relationship, geo-political goals, and true friendship.
The authors use extensive interviews of the Mr. Platt and Mr. Vasilenko, as well as unclassified information to tell the stories. The main narrative, besides a long lasting unlikely friendship, is the hunt for an American mole in the intelligence community which has caused untold amount of damage. Mr. Platt was instrumental in finding that mole, Robert Hanssen, unfortunately, Mr. Vasilenko was arrested and wrongfully imprisoned and tortured for years as a result.
Reading about the brutal imprisonment in modern Russia seems like an extension of the old gulag system. Trying to break a person to get unreliable, yet career making, information or a confession, a false one most likely.
The picture the authors paint of the ex-CIA, ex-KGB operators is that of two fun loving, strong and clever men who share much in common (most notably alcohol and shooting). Men who love their respective countries and will do anything out of pure patriotism despite the large personal cost they pay or their ideological disagreements with the current regime. The authors also touch on the difficult price operatives’ families pay, wives and children take second place to country and its needs.
Each person in the book is conveyed with great respect, but does not shy away from revealing some of their flaws which in my opinion makes this book about humans instead of fictional super-spies. Even actor Robert De Niro, who met the two while researching his 2006 movie The Good Shepard, became an admirer and a lifelong friend (he even wanted the charming and charismatic Mr. Vasilenko to star next to him).
The book contains relevant detail to the story the authors are trying to tell. It is not bogged down by details which will slow down the story, even if they might be somewhat relevant – after all, recapping 40 years of two very dangerous lives, lived by two exciting people is not an easy task to accomplish in 336 pages.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
*Amazon links point to an affiliate account