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Giles Whittell

Författare till Bridge of Spies

12 verk 659 medlemmar 15 recensioner

Om författaren

Inkluderar namnen: Giles Whittel, Giles Whittell

Verk av Giles Whittell


Allmänna fakta

London, England, UK
University of Cambridge



Giles Whittell is a master story teller; one that deserves the highest marks possible. The manner in which he builds suspense with machine gun-like structure, my heart was pounding with each chapter. I'd seen the film when it first came out but couldn't recall the detail he shares in the book which was enlightening to say the least. Being too young to have witnessed the events first hand, I find a similar connection to the current administrations handling of North Korea or Russia; how it will play out is anybody's guess. The construction of the Berlin wall bears resemblance in ways to what Trump wants to do with our southern borders; he should read this and learn. The story reads like a Baldacci or Dan Brown book only it's non-fiction but with the same pace, suspense and electric charge.. It's one everyone should read since we learn so much about spies, deception and negotiation of human life.… (mer)
Jonathan5 | 7 andra recensioner | Feb 20, 2023 |
To carry on with alternating between fiction and non-fiction I had to choose my next read from an over stocked non-fiction TBR. As a result I don't recall when or where I got this book, its a hardback and I rarely buy hardback so I have no idea. Berlin is one of my favourite cities and even though I really cold war history I have never been to the bridge so I was looking forward to reading about what occurred there.

The book starts and ends with the sparse details of a handover of prisoners at the Glienicke Bridge as seen by a reporter. The press had an idea that a prisoner transfers were a possibility but they had all expected any transfers to take place at Checkpoint Charlie. The rest of the book is a collection of cold war political history along with details of the main players in the story. William Fisher, Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor are each covered separately in the book, only coming together as the book reaches its climax.

The first person dealt with is William Fisher A.K.A Rudolf Abel and I found his story to be a little bit bland to be honest. This is no fault of the author, it is simply that Fisher was not a very effective spy. It is debated as to how much information, if any, he provided to the KGB during his time as a spy. I guess not all spies can be as exciting or adventurous as James Bond.

The story of Gary Power is far more interesting and covers the involvement of the U2 spy plane in the cold war. It also covers the conspiracy theory that it was always planned for him to fail his mission be people wanting to profit from the continuing spending on military weapons. The scope of the missions is covered in a bit of depth and there is a good sense of tension throughout this phase of the book.

Frederic Pryor's story felt a little bolted on, again in part because there isn't a huge amount of adventure to his story. You can't help but feel sorry for him though as he genuinely wasn't a spy, just someone who got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wanted to return to normal life after his release and I wonder if an unwillingness to do interviews perhaps made his tale shorter than it could have been.

This is a fairly interesting book which is well written and has a few photographs halfway through. It has made me want to read Mitrokhin Archive which has also been on my TBR for a while now.
… (mer)
Brian. | 7 andra recensioner | Jul 23, 2021 |
I've been reading several books about the U-2 incident, Francis Gary Powers, and the incident's effect on U.S. policy. Fallout from the debacle was considerable. Khrushchev was eager to spend less on the military. He wanted to bring the fruits of capitalism, washing machines, etc. to the USSR, and they would not be able to if military spending continued apace. The Summit with Eisenhower was coming up, and he and Eisenhower (who had his own suspicions and pressure from the "military-industrial complex" he was to warn about) both wanted to cool things down. When Power's plane was shot down, the Russian's suspected the flight was a deliberate provocation to prevent the Summit. Indeed, after that the pressure on Khrushchev increased. Kennedy had been elected on a bogus missile gap charge, and he was also anxious to prove he "had balls." So it's not unreasonable to suggest that the Berlin Wall and moving missiles to Cuba were a direct result of pressure on Khrushchev to be tougher on the U.S.

I just had to read this book after seeing Tom Hank's brilliant performance in the eponymous movie (a must-watch.) The movie focuses primarily on the role of James Donovan, Abel/Fischer's, lawyer, while Whittel's excellent book looks at events from the perspectives of other participants: Powers' wife, his relatives, espionage in the fifties and sixties, the technology of the U-2, and Vogel, the East German lawyer, who played a key role in getting not just Powers exchanged but also Fred Pryor, a PhD economics student who got caught up in East Berlin just as the wall was going up.

A depressing feature of the book is the information that defense in both countries had an interest in keeping the Cold War alive since they profited from it greatly. The book also points out the need for accurate intelligence to help make informed decisions, although here, that intelligence was made available by the U-2, but its use was thwarted by the incident because of pressures from the military.

The technology has changed dramatically since then, more importantly, we no longer need pilots for our intelligence-gathering aircraft. Satellites, drones, and cyber warfare are far more important. Spy satellites are able to discern minute details of anything on Earth from their orbits high above Earth. Whether all that raw information is processed and used properly and without undue influence is another matter.

A fascinating, page-turner of a book.
… (mer)
1 rösta
ecw0647 | 7 andra recensioner | Sep 9, 2020 |
Snow was always of paramount importance while growing up in northern Minnesota. Walking out to the main road to put the flag out for the snow plow could be easy or difficult depending on the quality of the snow. Fine powdery snow was fun, though I would get soaking wet. Meanwhile if there were a hard surface on top of the snow so each step had a hitch when breaking through, that was about as hard as it would get. We didn’t have fifty words for snow, but the different qualities mattered. It was that somewhat nostalgic connection to snow that led me to reading Snow by Gilles Whittell.

Whittel begins with the science of snow, how snowflakes are formed and why they are all unique. It was truly fascinating. He comes at the questions of snow from his own personal fascinations with skiing and the search for the world’s best powder. So, he explores what makes good snow, where it snows the most, and why. Then, he looks at high speed skiing. I love mountaineering and polar exploration memoirs. This was different, but close enough to my own fascinations to fit right in. I particularly liked his description of his attempts to ski the fastest high-speed track in the world. Like Falstaff, he decides discretion is the better part of valor.

I enjoyed Snow a lot and not just because I felt a sort of nostalgia for snow (not that I want any here!) It is well-structured, starting from the individual flake and expanding out to the whole world of snow and world competition skiing and Snowmads. The fanaticism of some of the snowmads is fascinating. Whittell is a good writer who can take complex scientific ideas and explain them clearly. He also conveys the excitement and thrill of rushing downhill so fast you can hardly breathe. Doing one or the other is what a reader expects, doing both so well is a gift.

I received an e-galley of Snow from the publisher through NetGalley.

Snow at Atria Books | Simon & Schuster
Gilles Whittell on Twitter
… (mer)
Tonstant.Weader | Jan 6, 2020 |


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