King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America's Spymaster in Korea

By Blaine Harden
Read by Mark Bramhall

7.72 Hours 10/03/2017 unabridged
Format: Digital Download (In Stock)
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    ISBN: 9780525500056

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The New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Camp 14 returns with the untold story of one of the most powerful spies in American history, shedding new light on the U.S. role in the Korean War, and its legacy In 1946, master sergeant Donald Nichols was repairing jeeps on the sleepy island of Guam when he caught the eye of recruiters from the army's Counter Intelligence Corps. After just three months' training, he was sent to Korea, then a backwater beneath the radar of MacArthur's Pacific Command. Though he lacked the pedigree of most U.S. spies—Nichols was a 7th grade dropout—he quickly metamorphosed from army mechanic to black ops phenomenon. He insinuated himself into the affections of America’s chosen puppet in South Korea, President Syngman Rhee, and became a pivotal player in the Korean War, warning months in advance about the North Korean invasion, breaking enemy codes, and identifying most of the targets destroyed by American bombs in North Korea. But Nichols's triumphs had a dark side. Immersed in a world of torture and beheadings, he became a spymaster with his own secret base, his own covert army, and his own rules. He recruited agents from refugee camps and prisons, sending many to their deaths on reckless missions. His closeness to Rhee meant that he witnessed—and did nothing to stop or even report—the slaughter of tens of thousands of South Korean civilians in anticommunist purges. Nichols’s clandestine reign lasted for an astounding eleven years. In this riveting book, Blaine Harden traces Nichols's unlikely rise and tragic ruin, from his birth in an operatically dysfunctional family in New Jersey to his sordid postwar decline, which began when the U.S. military sacked him in Korea, sent him to an air force psych ward in Florida, and subjected him—against his will—to months of electroshock therapy. But King of Spies is not just the story of one American spy. It is a groundbreaking work of narrative history that—at a time when North Korea is threatening the United States with long-range nuclear missiles—explains the origins of an intractable foreign policy mess.

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Summary

Summary

The New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Camp 14 returns with the untold story of one of the most powerful spies in American history, shedding new light on the U.S. role in the Korean War, and its legacy

In 1946, master sergeant Donald Nichols was repairing jeeps on the sleepy island of Guam when he caught the eye of recruiters from the army's Counter Intelligence Corps. After just three months' training, he was sent to Korea, then a backwater beneath the radar of MacArthur's Pacific Command. Though he lacked the pedigree of most U.S. spies—Nichols was a 7th grade dropout—he quickly metamorphosed from army mechanic to black ops phenomenon. He insinuated himself into the affections of America’s chosen puppet in South Korea, President Syngman Rhee, and became a pivotal player in the Korean War, warning months in advance about the North Korean invasion, breaking enemy codes, and identifying most of the targets destroyed by American bombs in North Korea.

But Nichols's triumphs had a dark side. Immersed in a world of torture and beheadings, he became a spymaster with his own secret base, his own covert army, and his own rules. He recruited agents from refugee camps and prisons, sending many to their deaths on reckless missions. His closeness to Rhee meant that he witnessed—and did nothing to stop or even report—the slaughter of tens of thousands of South Korean civilians in anticommunist purges. Nichols’s clandestine reign lasted for an astounding eleven years.

In this riveting book, Blaine Harden traces Nichols's unlikely rise and tragic ruin, from his birth in an operatically dysfunctional family in New Jersey to his sordid postwar decline, which began when the U.S. military sacked him in Korea, sent him to an air force psych ward in Florida, and subjected him—against his will—to months of electroshock therapy. But King of Spies is not just the story of one American spy. It is a groundbreaking work of narrative history that—at a time when North Korea is threatening the United States with long-range nuclear missiles—explains the origins of an intractable foreign policy mess.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Blaine Harden has done what no one else thought to do in seven decades: He’s brought us the full, secret, astonishing story of one of the most improbably powerful characters in American history, and he has done so with crystalline writing and in jaw-dropping detail. Steve Twomey, author of Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack
“Many accounts of the Korean War are full of mystery, hinting at horrific crimes and large-scale covert operations. King of Spies pierces that mystery through the story of a remarkable American operative who took his mission to mind-boggling extremes.  The adventures that fill these pages, from bleak battlefields to the corridors of power, tell us much about how the world really works. Stephen Kinzer, author of Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq  
A thrilling real-life spy story told by a terrific writer. Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Blaine Harden has now produced a fascinating trilogy of stranger-than-fiction books about North Korea. His latest, King of Spies, is about a gay middle school dropout who was one of the few U.S. officials to predict the outbreak of the Korean War and whose espionage activities had a profound impact on the course of the war. You’ve probably never heard of Donald Nichols, but you’ll never forget him after reading King of Spies. Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
King of Spies is a dark story of espionage and evil by a wild American military spymaster in Korea, a tale both revelatory and tragic. Blaine Harden's superb book throws open a long-ignored chapter in the Korean War; a compelling and disturbing read, not to be missed. David E. Hoffman, author of The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
Blaine Harden has done more than anyone else to bring [North Korea] to a mass audience. . . . Thrilling stuff. The Washington Post
A riveting book that makes the history of North Korea accessible to the general reader. Wall Street Journal
A riveting new biography . . . If you want a singular perspective on what goes on inside the rogue regime, then you must read [this] story. CNN
A remarkable story. The Wall Street Journal
Harden's book, besides being a gripping story, unsparingly told, carries a freight of intelligence about this black hole of a country. Bill Keller, The New York Times
An eminently readable picture of our most under-remembered war. The Daily BeastPraise for Escape From Camp 14:
Jaw-droppingly good — a quirky, unlikely, thrilling true story of intrigue and daring and depravity told by a master of the genre. David Maraniss, author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
An engrossing hidden history of wartime espionage, with elements of derring-do and moral barbarity. . . . [Harden] ably connects his ominous central figure to the larger mysterious, unresolved narrative of the Korean conflict....Fascinating. Kirkus Reviews
“For readers interested in Korea, the Korean War, or US intelligence operations, this is a must-read. Harden raises troubling questions about US conduct in the Korean War.” Library Journal (starred review)
A good yarn and a timely one — appearing as Americans are once again pondering the possibility of war with North Korea. Mary Louise Kelly, Washington Post
“[A] masterful work of narrative history. South China Morning Post
Compellingly told. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A rip-roaring exposé . . . King of Spies is set in the 1940s and 50s, but the conundrum at its center is timeless: do the ends of effective espionage justify the actions of dangerous men employing dubious means? With 21st century America globally engaged in black operations, under questionable oversight, that question remains as pertinent today as ever. Asia Times
Harden’s Nichols is both a victim and an exemplar of a war that 'most Americans never debated, let alone understood.' Publishers Weekly
Provocative . . . a must-read. Library Journal (starred review)
“A good yarn and a timely one—appearing as Americans are once again pondering the possibility of war with North Korea.” Washington Post
“Fascinating…The author ably connects his ominous central figure to the larger mysterious, unresolved narrative of the Korean conflict. An engrossing hidden history of wartime espionage, with elements of derring-do and moral barbarity.” Kirkus Reviews
“Blaine Harden has done what no one else thought to do in seven decades: He’s brought us the full, secret, astonishing story of one of the most improbably powerful characters in American history, and he has done so with crystalline writing and in jaw-dropping detail.” Steve Twomey, author of Countdown to Pearl Harbor
“A thrilling real-life spy story told by a terrific writer.” Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Blaine Harden

Blaine Harden is a contributor to the Economist and has formerly served as the Washington Post’s bureau chief in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He is the author of Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent and A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download
Category: Nonfiction/Political Science
Runtime: 7.72
Audience: Adult
Language: English