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A Brotherhood of Spies

The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War
Narrated by: Paul Michael
Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
5 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling dramatic narrative of the top-secret Cold War-era spy plane operation that transformed the CIA and brought the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of disaster 

On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union just weeks before a peace summit between the two nations. The CIA concocted a cover story for President Eisenhower to deliver, assuring him that no one could have survived a fall from that altitude. And even if pilot Francis Gary Powers had survived, he had been supplied with a poison pin with which to commit suicide. 

But against all odds, Powers emerged from the wreckage and was seized by the KGB. He confessed to espionage charges, revealing to the world that Eisenhower had just lied to the American people - and to the Soviet Premier. Infuriated, Nikita Khrushchev slammed the door on a rare opening in Cold War relations.

In A Brotherhood of Spies, award-winning journalist Monte Reel reveals how the U-2 spy program, principally devised by four men working in secret, upended the Cold War and carved a new mission for the CIA. This secret fraternity, made up of Edwin Land, best known as the inventor of instant photography and the head of Polaroid Corporation; Kelly Johnson, a hard-charging taskmaster from Lockheed; Richard Bissell, the secretive and ambitious spymaster; and ace Air Force flyer Powers, set out to replace yesterday's fallible human spies with tomorrow's undetectable eye in the sky. Their clandestine successes and all-too-public failures make this brilliantly reported account a true-life thriller with the highest stakes and tragic repercussions.

©2018 Monte Reel (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

A Brotherhood of Spies is an old-fashioned tale of the American ingenuity, resourcefulness and grit that remade intelligence gathering.... Casts intriguing light on this familiar history. The rock-steady, nuanced leadership of Ike and JFK in these crises, supported by deeply experienced advisers desperately seeking to avert nuclear war, is a sobering contrast to today's White House melodramas.” (Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“[A] fresh and fascinating life to an oft-told story by concentrating on the four men who were instrumental in the U-2 story.” (The Washington Times

"A brilliant investigation into one of the most important - and least examined - milestones of the Cold War. With a novelist’s eye for the telling detail, Monte Reel gets into the minds of the remarkably small group of men who masterminded the top-secret U-2 spy plane program, and their coldblooded calculation that, in the event of a mishap, no pilot should survive to tell of it. At the book’s core is the deeply poignant story of Francis Gary Powers, the man who against all odds did survive, and how he and his wife, Barbara, became pawns in an international political chess game. A wonderful read.” (Scott Anderson, New York Times best-selling author of Lawrence in Arabia

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Lessons Learned

Very well written and narrated. The book is long in the telling but very much worth it if you are interested in that era of history. A lot happened during those years from Eisenhower to Kennedy and the book provides details of their thoughts about the program and their interactions with those involved developing the U2 including the film, cameras, and planes themselves. The politics are as interesting as the actual engineering and Area 51. In other words, it is much more than a story about Powers and the U2 although that piece is enlightening in and of itself. The Cuban missile crisis with a downed U2 and a lost U2 show the depth the author has taken for our learning enjoyment. He brings us up-to-date on events that went beyond the U2 and lesson learned. If you want a look inside technology, government, and spying this book is for you!