Title:                  Abel

Author:                Louise Bernikow

Bernikow, Louise (1951, 1970). Abel. New York: Trident.

LCCN:    78101245

UB271.R92 A23


Date Updated:  September 26, 2016

I had the good fortune to be in classes taught by Nigel West while travelling on the Queen Mary II in 2010. One of Nigel’s handouts provided a list of books by large-scale subject material. It also includes a bibliography of West’s books as of 2010. This book is one item in the section, VENONA.

This is a rather discouraging book no matter how sincere its intentions and undemonstrative its presentation. In the first place, James Donovan fully covered and documented in greater detail the story of Colonel Rudolph Abel, the Russian spy (master or just technician?) in Strangers on a Bridge (1964). Donovan was his defense counsel. In the second place the author here, along with her collaborator – a painter who was a friend of Abel’s during his brief residence in Brooklyn– hoped that he would “assume flesh and blood.” In the end after 2 years research including a trip to Russia (they never caught up with him there after his exchange for Gary Powers) they concluded that “the more you learn about him, the less you know.” This in part then is the story of Burt Silverman’s recollections of Abel when he lived next door to him (always likable and equivocal) and in part a re-run of the arrest, trial and return to Russia. Ultimately it is the reader who is still out in the cold.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[1]

The story of the career and enigmatic personality of Colonel Rudolf Abel. Through interviews with persons who knew Abel during his 8 years in New York, particularly his neighbor and friend, Burt Silverman, the author conveys an interesting insight into Abel’s personality and Soviet clandestine modus operandi. See also, Donovan, Strangers on a Bridge[2].

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

The author and Burt Silveman, a friend of Soviet espionage agent Rudolph Abel, spent two and a half years researching records and interviewing people who knew Abel or the other Soviet agent who betrayed him—Reino Hayhanen. Their research is the basis for this description of the spy and his nine years in various hotels and rooming houses in New York. The book provides an unusual look at an accomplished field agent as he lived his cover.

[1] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 7

[2] Donovan, James B. (1964). Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel. New York: Atheneum

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 152


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2 Responses to Abel

  1. Pingback: The Great Detective | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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