The name Michael Straight may not mean much to most people, but those who were in the know during the Cold War were quite familiar with the infamous Cambridge spy ring and the sole American who worked as a spy for the Soviet Union. Michael Straight was that sole American, an enigmatic man from a well-to-do New England background who led a double life as one of the most influential Cold War spies.
Award-winning journalist and author of nineteen books, including The Fifth Man and The Exile, two biographies of other noted espionage agents, Roland Perry presents a highly detailed and intriguing in-depth look into the life and motives of an educated student who fell in with the peace movement, and came out a top spy for the KGB. A young man with ideals and an interest in the promise of communism, Straight was one of several students hand-picked by the KGB, along with Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, and soon Straight found himself with his first big assignment – to seduce the wife of Lord Victor Rothschild.
For the next several years, Straight and his fellow spies worked and wormed their way into the lives of many famous politicians and even British royalty, all the while reporting back to the KGB. In fact, Straight made such a name for himself, he was personally chosen by Stalin to begin spying work in the U.S.
This page-turner of a portrait focuses not just on Straight’s entry into espionage, his time at the State Department where he passed sensitive information on to the Russians, and his long career cultivating close relationships with the likes of Jackie Kennedy, but it also looks at another side of his life – his love of the arts and his passion for using the arts to express his beliefs and convictions. Straight was, in addition to being one of the best Cold War spies, a novelist who often used his books as covers for getting close to American defense installations, choosing to set his stories in the same locales he was spying on.
Last of the Cold War Spies at times reads like a fiction thriller, a tale of suspense and intrigue that inspires awe because of the very fact that it is all true. Michael Straight led the kind of life we normally only read about in spy novels or see up on the big screen, and the fact that he moved in and out of the lives of the most powerful people in America, all the while working for the Russians, is simply stunning.
We focus so much on the lives of celebrities and the rich, yet people like Michael Straight prove to have led lives that went far beyond fame and fortune. Author Perry understands that sometimes, the most interesting people are those who’s names we often don’t recognize, yet whose influence far transcends that of any actor or rock star. Whether we agree with Straight’s politics and motives or not, we have to admit – he led one hell of an exciting, dangerous life.