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parsed(2024-08-20) - pubdate: 08/24
pub date: 1724130000
today: 1718600400, pubdate > today = true

nyp: 1;

Prisoner of Lies

Jack Downey's Cold War

August 20, 2024 | Hardcover
ISBN: 9781501153976
Reader Reward Price: $36.89 info
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This title will be released on Aug 20, 2024. Pre-order now.


The remarkable true story of the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, John Downey, Jr., a CIA officer captured in China during the Korean War and imprisoned for twenty-one years.

John (Jack) Downey, Jr., was a new Yale graduate in the post-World War II years who, like other Yale grads, was recruited by the young CIA. He joined the Agency and was sent to Japan in 1952, during the Korean War. In a violation of protocol, he took part in an air drop that failed and was captured over China. His sources on the ground had been compromised, and his identity was known. Although he first tried to deny who he was, he eventually admitted the truth.

But government policy forbade ever acknowledging the identity of spies, no matter the consequences. Washington invented a fictitious cover story and stood by it through four Administrations. As a result, Downey was imprisoned during the decades that Red China, as it was called, was considered by the US to be a hostile nation, until 1973, when the US finally recognized the mainland Chinese government. He had spent twenty-one years in captivity.

Downey would go on to become a lawyer and an esteemed judge in Connecticut, his home state. Prisoners of Lies is based in part on a prison memoir that Downey wrote several years after his release. Barry Werth fluently weaves excerpts from the memoir with the Cold War events that determined Downey's fate. Like a le Carré novel, this is a harrowing, chilling story of one man whose life is at the mercy of larger forces outside of his control; in Downey's case as a pawn of the Cold War, and more specifically the Oval Office and the State Department. His freedom came only when US foreign policy dramatically changed. Above all, Prisoner of Lies is an inspiring story of remarkable fortitude and resilience.

About this Author

Barry Werth is an award-winning journalist and the acclaimed author of seven books. His landmark first book, The Billion-Dollar Molecule, recounts the founding and early struggles of a start-up pharmaceutical company. Werth's articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and GQ, among others. He has taught journalism and nonfiction writing at Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Boston University. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

ISBN: 9781501153976
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 448
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2024-08-20


"Riveting. . . . A robust look at the Cold War's perpetual limbo through the prism of one spy's harrowing ordeal."

"Gripping. . . . A thrilling spy story and informative Cold War exploration."

"Readers will revel in Werth's raw and unsparing depiction of international power politics and a brave American hero."

"It's difficult to grasp what Jack Downey went through in his Chinese imprisonment - and just as difficult to grasp how he was able to recover from it so thoroughly and so fruitfully.  In Barry Werth, Downey's story has found the perfect writer: thorough, fair, insightful, and most of all empathetic. This is an important book."

"This long-overdue book cuts through the web of deceit that shaped one of the most dramatic secret episodes of the Cold War.  Written with restrained outrage, it is both the story of one remarkable CIA officer and of the government that abandoned him.  Thrilling, richly informative, and infuriating."

"In this real-life spy thriller, a brave young American survives the cruelty of both sides in the Cold War. Jack Downey is the resilient hero of this astonishing saga, told by a writer in full command of his material. You will not soon forget this shocking tale."

"Barry Werth's Prisoner of Lies is many things: a bracing saga of survival, a post-war history of government hubris, and a painful example of the consequences of America's anti-Communist fervor. Most of all, though, it is a thrilling story about the fortitude, determination and courage of Jack Downey, the man who spent more years in a Chinese prison than any other American."

"All countries lie and all countries spy. But for a while in the dead middle of the 20th century the United States pretended that it was different, and the young CIA recruit Jack Downey became the victim of the truths his country refused to tell. Barry Werth's wonderful new book is a real-life page-turner, a history of the Cold War, a study in stoic heroism, and a profound tale of forgiveness and rebirth." 

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