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Comrade J

Pete Earley
In Print
Tantor Audio (2008)

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This entry created 13 May 2010. Last revised on 5 September 2016.

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©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
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Comrade J

The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star (8.00)

One MP3-CD. 41 MP3 files. Eleven hours unabridged.


Part 1 - Born a Communist
Part 2 - Spies, Bribes, and Nuclear Bombs
Part 3 - Fake Diplomats and UN Thefts
Part 4 - The Escape

This was a bit of a technical adventure for me, as it was my first time to listen to an audio book on an MP3 player. The publisher makes Comrade J available both in audio CD and MP3-CD formats. The difference is that the audio CD format requires nine CDs and costs more; the MP3-CD version comes on a single CD, but will only play on MP3 players or on equipment that can play MP3s (for instance, you could play the book using the free iTunes software on a PC).

Under Windows, it was no trouble at all to transfer the files from the CD to an inexpensive MP3 player. The only glitch was that this particular MP3 player wanted to play the files in an order that wasn't always the correct order, and some patience with the fast forward button was sometimes required.

Most of my listening then took place while either driving somewhere, or waiting in my car for someone. I found this a much better occupation of my time than listening to music or the radio, though when driving I had to be careful not to concentrate too much on the book. One nice thing about the MP3 player: it's easy to replay the part you missed because traffic intervened! The MP3 player also automatically remembered where I was, which was an improvement over using the audio CDs.

The Talent

The author, Pete Earley, is a former reporter for the Washington Post, has written a number of novels, but is best known for his series of non-fiction works involving intelligence work.

The book is read by Michael Prichard, whose voice I found a pleasure to listen to. The book primarily consists of narrative by the author and quotes from Comrade J - Prichard reads the quotes with a Russian accent which sounded authentic enough to me.

The Book Itself

From 1995 to 2000, the man known here as Comrade J was Russia's highest ranking intelligence agent in the United States. As part of the SVR - the successor to the Cold War's KGB - he oversaw all covert activities against the U.S., as well as its allies at the U.N. (Previously, he was based in Canada.) He tells the stories of sources recruited, of U.N. programs infiltrated, of disinformation campaigns against Western scientists, and of information gleaned from incautious politicians and bureaucrats.

Then in 2000, Comrade J defected. Ultimately, he contacted Pete Earley to write his story, and revealed his final secret: Comrade J had been a double agent for the FBI during his final years in the SVR.

For any wargamer thinking of running an espionage-based campaign, Comrade J will be a useful resource on the creation of a Soviet spy, and the workings of an actual spy network in the post-Soviet era. You'll even get an idea of what the floor plan would be at spy headquarters. Unfortunately, as Comrade J makes clear, a real spy is not much like James Bond - the real work lies in making contacts and cultivating relationships, not in gunplay and fistfights.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.