Why Spy?

Book review: The Falcon and the Snowman

Two childhood friends, former altar boys, develop their own espionage “scam”, as they call it, and become unlikely spies, selling government documents to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It would make an entertaining basis for a spy novel, except that it actually happened. An upcoming ebook edition of this former bestseller is published September 6.

Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee grew up together in Palos Verdes, California, coming of age during turbulent times in America – witnessing the country’s actions in Vietnam and some of the disturbing aftermath, counterculture, McCarthyism and the Cold War. Chris eventually gets a job at an aerospace contractor with CIA connections, thanks to some string-pulling on his father’s part, since Chris doesn’t apply himself to much despite his intelligence. He becomes disillusioned with the state of American politics and foreign affairs and starts selling secret information, diagrams and photographs of the reconnaissance satellites his company has been developing. Daulton, at this point deep into drug dealing, ferries the documents and photographs to the Soviet embassy in Mexico embassy and collects payment, much of which he funnels back into his own drug use and dealing.

I didn’t find myself sympathetic for either of them, despite the background of what bothered them in their childhoods, personal failures and shortcomings, their disappointments. Nothing was so bad. They come across as lazy, spoiled and unappreciative of what they’ve been given in life and the opportunities they have. Their reasons for selling out their country’s information sound so whiny and spoiled. And they were only in their early twenties, young and dumb. Crazy that they were able to compromise the country’s national security thanks to their frustration with the system and drug addiction. Of course there were big flaws in the government’s actions and foreign relations but this was so clearly not the way to work against that.

Big plus: the conclusion, which pointed out a few odd details about the whole affair. Like how Chris was almost immediately given access to sensitive material despite his lackluster background, the fact that Daulton was never targeted by the CIA despite the Soviet Union’s Mexican embassy being under heavy surveillance, and other such strange coincidences. These stood out while reading the story, and apparently they remain unexplained. Bizarre!

Pretty intriguing overall, and a good rerelease for the times, considering current U.S.-. Russian relations. Also recommended for fans of The Americans.

The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage
by Robert Lindsey

originally published 1979, new ebook edition from Open Road Media published September 6, 2016

I received an advance ebook copy courtesy of the publisher for review.

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