King of Spies by Blaine Harden

Wednesday, October 4th 6:30pm

Bestselling author Blaine Hardenreturns with one of the most jaw-dropping—and previously untold—spy stories of the twentieth century. King of Spiesreveals the unlikely rise and tragic fall of Donald Nichols, a seventh-grade dropout who at the dawn of the cold war transformed himself into a black-ops genius. His commanders called him a “one-man war” and said he did not know what it meant to be afraid.

But Nichols was so much more than merely a brave spy in the Korean War: He was a con artist and a thief, a fabulist and a counterfeiter, a code-breaker and an executioner, "a close personal friend" of the president of South Korea and a fugitive pedophile hunted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nichols created his own army of spies called NICK, sent legions of them to near-certain death in North Korea, and ruled over his clandestine creation for more than a decade. Then, the U.S. military spirted Nichols out of Korea in a straitjacket. His career, his credibility, and his self-worth were secretly destroyed, with the help of electroshock, in the psych ward of a U.S. Air Force hospital in Florida.

Shedding new light on the U.S. role in the Korean War and its legacy, KING OF SPIES reveals American and South Korean collaboration in civilian killings, high-level lies, and cover-ups that lasted for nearly half a century. The book also shows how some of the darkest sins of the Vietnam War were committed first in Korea. Harden fleshes out Nichols’s life and legacy with the help of previously classified documents, letters, newly discovered photographs, military service records, and interviews with relatives and former intelligence officers in the United States and South Korea.

BLAINE HARDEN served as The Washington Post's bureau chief in East Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. He also worked as national correspondent for the New York Times and has contributed The Economist, PBS Frontline, Time, and Foreign Policy. He is the author of The Great Leader and the Fighter PilotEscape From Camp 14, an international bestseller that has been published in 28 languages; A River Lost; and Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, which won a Pen American Center citation for a first book of non-fiction.