The Liar: How a Double Agent in the CIA Became the Cold War's Last Honest Man (Hardcover)
The Cold War meets Mad Men in the form of Karel Koecher, a double agent whose shifting loyalties and over-the-top hedonism reverberated from New York to Moscow
In the mid-1970s, the CIA and KGB watched Karel Koecher closely—they were both convinced he was working for the enemy. And they were both right. Traveling with his wife, Hana, Koecher posed as a Czechoslovak asylum seeker and arrived in the US as a Communist sleeper agent. After parlaying a doctorate from Columbia into a job at the CIA, Koecher proceeded to operate as a double agent at the height of the Cold War.
Shunning a low profile, the Koechers embraced Manhattan’s high life—with cocaine, swinging, and parties emblematic of the times and their penchant for risk. Hana, who was no more than a shy teenager when she arrived, grew into a sophisticated international diamond dealer who relayed messages to Karel’s handlers. Riding a wave of euphoria, the Koechers felt unstoppable. But it was too good to last.
Using newly declassified documents, interrogation tapes, and extraordinary firsthand accounts from the Koechers themselves, Cunningham reconstructs their double lives and the fading Cold War, where a strange moral fog made it hard to know what truth was being fought for, and to what end.
“Engagingly written, carefully researched, and richly informed, The Liar tells a gripping story of a prominent Czechoslovak Secret Police agent against the backdrop of Cold War history. Cunningham depicts a character worthy of a novel without compromising on historical accuracy. Struggling to be an agent of his own life while at the mercy of world superpowers, Cunningham’s Karel Koecher meets Kafka’s K. in John LeCarré’s universe.”—Veronika Tuckerová, department of Slavic languages & literatures, Harvard University
“[V]ivid, sprawling… engrossing, well-written tale from the waning days of Cold War espionage.”—Kirkus
“Engrossing… delivers intriguing documentation about spies and spycraft.”—Wall Street Journal
“Cunningham delivers a carefully researched, logically analyzed portrait of the man and his times… he is an excellent student of a most difficult topic.”—Decatur Daily