Translate

Monday, July 28, 2014

4. WRITER, EDITOR...






SEPTEMBER 1993


The bar inside Montgomery's Grille in downtown Bethesda, Maryland was quiet the last day of September, 1993.  

I grabbed a stool and ordered a dry martini.  Wayne the barkeep, a character out of Animal House, said they were out of olives.  

Out of olives?  

I was already teed off at this saloon for becoming so popular since opening a few months earlier. 

And now no olives. 

"Okay, make it a Beefeater, rocks, lemon twist." 

Joel Joseph of National Press Books was late for our five p.m. rendezvous.  Truth be known, I didn't care if he'd forgotten.  I was in the mood for a quiet cocktail, which I'd savor this warm afternoon and be gone. 

But as I sipped my martini, Joseph appeared with his partner, Alan Sultan.  

The specialty of this duo's ten year-old publishing house was political intrigue.  They had recently published a book by James Earl Ray, the convicted killer of Martin Luther King. 

Joseph was mid-40s, graying mustache, with a paunch exaggerated by tight blue jeans.  A lawyer by training, Joseph was civil-liberties-minded and a devotee of the first amendment.  Years earlier, he had been part of a legal team that defended conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. 

Sultan was about fifteen years younger than Joseph; slim with a swarthy complexion, thick jet-black hair and trimmed beard.  He was the bean-counter at National Press, and its conscience. 

Months earlier, I'd jocularly suggested to this publishing pair that they create an imprint called Ball & Chain Books, an outlet for celebrity prisoners around the world. 

They had been trying, for several years, to lure me into their mix as an investor.  (How do you make a small fortune?  Invest a large fortune into book publishing.)  

I'd explained my philosophy about the book biz:  Each book is a business unto itself.  Bring me a single book that has serious money-spinning potential, maybe I'll pitch in. 

So Joseph had telephoned me a few days earlier to say he had such a book, was I still interested? 

"Sure," I said.  "What is it?"

"Arafat," Joseph had replied.  "We have a writer from Penthouse magazine who knows his people." 

I'd been through this kind of publishing quagmire once before, with Poland's Lech Walesa, whose disparate representatives had made three simultaneous exclusive deals. 

But I like good yarns.  So there we sat in Montgomery's Grille, Joseph and Sultan sipping white wine. 

"Did Joel tell you about our new book project?" asked Sultan. 

"Yeah," I said.  "Arafat." 

"No," said Sultan.  "Something a lot better came in yesterday."  He cued his partner with a glance. 

"Have you ever heard the name Edward Lee Howard?" asked Joseph. 

"Sure," I replied.  "The only CIA guy ever to defect to Moscow." 

"He wants to write a book," said Joseph.  "We have his proposal." 

"How long is it?" I asked. 

"Forty pages," said Joseph.  "You interested?" 

Yep.  I was interested.  But not for the same reason as Joseph or Sultan.  I was interested in nailing the traitor and putting his butt behind bars.
  
A much worse fate had befallen Adolph Grigoryevitch Tolkachev, the Russian scientist and invaluable CIA spy whom Howard betrayed to the Russians.  

Tolkachev had been executed. 

"Maybe," I said.  "Tell me more."  

"Howard says it wasn't his fault that he ran to the KGB," said Joseph.  "The CIA put him in a corner and he had no choice.  He says he's the only guy who's ever been trained by both the CIA and the KGB in spy tradecraft.  And get this, the KGB chief who took Howard under his wing, Kryuchkov?  He's the same guy who led the putsch against Gorbachev in 1991.  You've got to see the proposal."


Next morning, Friday, October 1, I telephoned Clair George, the CIA's former spymaster as Deputy Director  for Operations.

We had known each other three years, were working together as independent contractors on several private-sector intelligence projects. 

"You know the name Edward Lee Howard?" I said.

"You kidding?" 

"He wants to write a book."  

"Really?"   This intrigued the former spymaster. 

"Not only," I said.  "I've been invited to participate.  You see the potential here?" 



No comments:

Post a Comment