Back home, I set to work editing Richard Cote's re-write of Edward Lee Howard's manuscript, a version vastly improved, but still not publishable.
Inevitably, I had to do what I told the guys at National Press Books I would not do: Rewrite the damned manuscript.
Cote had organized Howard's written matter, and injected new material from his interviews with Howard, George Blake, and Igor Batamirov. But he had hardly touched the author's inclination toward clutter and redundancy (not to mention prevarication).
I also excised all references to CIA operations Howard had compromised, as this would become an issue sooner or later.
The task took forty-seven hours spread over two weeks in mid-August, 1994.
Meantime, National Press submitted Cote's version to the CIA's Review Board.
Joel Joseph soon phoned me. He sounded like a walking pinched nerve. "We got a fax from the CIA today," said Joseph. "They say we can't publish Ed's book!"
"None of it?"
"That's what they're saying. They won't even tell us what's classified."
"Because they say it's too sensitive to even point out to us what's classified." said Joseph. "What do you think we should do?"
"You ever see the movie Three Days of the Condor?" I said.
"I'd get out of the office for a few days. Sounds like you and Alan already know too much."
I phoned John H. "You know what I just heard?"
"I know, I know," he said. "I only heard yesterday what was coming down."
"So what's going on?"
Just a legal tactic, John H explained, orchestrated by Bob G, the assistant U.S. Attorney.
Of course it was not illegal for National Press to publish Howard's book; it was, however, illegal for Howard to write his book for publication in the first place.
The CIA fax was a first-step toward freezing any monies due Howard from National Press. But knowing National Press, there'd never be any money for Howard anyway, so it hardly mattered.
John H said Bob G fully expected National Press to figure out they could publish.
"Will this cause you any problem with Howard?" he asked.
"No," I said. "I've already distanced myself from National Press. If necessary, I can sympathize with him, and offer to make it up with Spy’s Guide."
Next, Howard. I found him at his dacha; his wife and son were still in Moscow, had been to St. Petersburg and back.
"There's been a hiccup with the review process," I said.
"I was expecting something like that," said Howard. "They [the CIA] hate me and I hate them."
"National Press is dealing with it, but I want to keep you updated on the QT."
"That's good of you," said Howard. "I appreciate it."
"It's important you don't go screaming back to National Press, because they'll know it's me and they'll stop telling me what's going on, and I won't be able to keep you informed."
"I understand. It's just between you and me."
"It's going to hold up publication." I said.
"I'd really like to get that travel project we discussed going," said Howard.
"Me, too. We should get together again and flesh it out. Maybe that city [Zurich] where we first planned to meet?"
"Yes," said Howard. "I may have some business there. We can pony it on that."
"Good. If you can do it, let me know the usual way [Fed Ex]."
John H was pleased that Howard had, in our conversation, evoked Spy’s Guide on his own, without further prompting from me; and even more excited that Howard would meet me in Zurich.
"You've got a problem though," I added. "If CIA and Justice come on too strong and National Press kills this book, Howard will probably take it to a foreign publisher, one that would be delighted to publish it with the classified passages that National Press would willingly remove."
"I hear you," said John H. "I'll make sure that gets passed along."
On October 27th, I telephoned Howard. "Happy Birthday," I said.
"Thank you." Howard was touched. "I'm glad you called. Some people here [in Moscow] have asked me to a meeting. They want to know what's happening with the book. Can you check with National and get an update?"
I phoned National Press. Yes, said Joseph, he had some news: The Justice Department had summoned him to a meeting two days hence.
"I think they want to negotiate," he said. "I'm taking someone from the ACLU with me."
John H next. He was intrigued that Howard's KGB friends required updates from him on the status of his book.
Howard and I spoke after his KGB meeting: "What they told me," said Howard, "was that those jokers in Washington just wanted to read my manuscript and find out what I know. Now that they've satisfied their curiosity, they'll stop."
The news from National Press a few days later seemed to corroborate this development: "We can publish," Joseph told me. "The Justice Department gave me a broad outline of what they want deleted, about five percent. But they won't tell me which five percent. I'm supposed to figure it out for myself, and resubmit it for further review."
That process, added Joseph, would delay publication until spring '95.