The Press has asked me, The Bolshevik, to pause from my advice column to fill in with the popular Backlist Bop feature. And good timing it is, for today the roulette wheel of UIP books stops on Radical Studies. Donning our red-colored glasses, and with a glass of vodka close at hand, let us examine Red Conspirator: J. Peters and the American Communist Underground, written by Thomas Sakmyster.
It is uncommon for those of us at UIP to describe one of our titles as pulse-pounding, but Red Conspirator fits the bill. The author used the unpublished memoir of J. Peters (a pseudonym of his subject) as well as an international trove of resources to craft the biography of a shadowy Hungarian spymaster. You may be imagining The Americans if Keri Russell sported a thick accent and a large mustache. You’re close!
Peters did much in the cause. His false passport operation allowed Soviet agents to enter the US and American communists besotted with paradise to move to the Soviet Union, then home to the world’s most competitive leagues for standing in line for bread.
But, unsatisfied with mere forgery, Peters wove a web of espionage that included agents who filched State Department documents. He also helped to organize communist activists in the United States. His book on communism became a build-your-own-cell bible, one that even found its way to the military. Sakmyster follows the story from Peters’s arrival in 1924 through his long underground life and on to his deportation in 1949. Along the way he raises new questions about the extent and nature of Soviet spying in the US.