Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers

Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers


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The #1 New York Times bestseller and subject of the acclaimed major motion picture Bridge of Spies directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan.

Originally published in 1964, this is the “enthralling...truly remarkable” (The New York Times Book Review) insider account of the Cold War spy exchange—with a new foreword by Jason Matthews, New York Times bestselling author of Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason.

In the early morning of February 10, 1962, James B. Donovan began his walk toward the center of the Glienicke Bridge, the famous “Bridge of Spies” which then linked West Berlin to East. With him, walked Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, master spy and for years the chief of Soviet espionage in the United States. Approaching them from the other side, under equally heavy guard, was Francis Gary Powers, the American U-2 spy plane pilot famously shot down by the Soviets, whose exchange for Abel Donovan had negotiated. These were the strangers on a bridge, men of East and West, representatives of two opposed worlds meeting in a moment of high drama.

Abel was the most gifted, the most mysterious, the most effective spy in his time. His trial, which began in a Brooklyn United States District Court and ended in the Supreme Court of the United States, chillingly revealed the methods and successes of Soviet espionage.

No one was better equipped to tell the whole absorbing history than James B. Donovan, who was appointed to defend one of his country’s enemies and did so with scrupulous skill. In Strangers on a Bridge, the lead prosecutor in the Nuremburg Trials offers a clear-eyed and fast-paced memoir that is part procedural drama, part dark character study and reads like a noirish espionage thriller. From the first interview with Abel to the exchange on the bridge in Berlin—and featuring unseen photographs of Donovan and Abel as well as trial notes and sketches drawn from Abel’s prison cell—here is an important historical narrative that is “as fascinating as it is exciting” (The Houston Chronicle).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501118784
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 375,950
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Born in New York City in 1916, James B. Donovan graduated from Fordham University and Harvard Law School. A commander in the Navy during World War II, he became general counsel of the Office of Strategic Services and was associate prosecutor at the principal Nuremberg trial. Mr. Donovan subsequently acted as chief counsel in major trials and appeals in over thirty states, and was an insurance lawyer and partner at Watters and Donovan. He was Democratic candidate for United States Senator from New York in 1962; served as general counsel for the Cuban Families Committee, obtaining the release of more than 9,700 Cubans and Americans from Castro’s Cuba; was president of Pratt Institute; and was president of the Board of Education of the City of New York. He died in 1970, and was survived by his wife and four children.

Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelli­gence, specializing in denied-area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet–East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. As Chief in various CIA Stations, he collaborated with foreign partners in counterproliferation and counterterrorism operations. He is the author of Red Sparrow, Palace of Treason, and The Kremlin's Candidate. He lives in Southern California.

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Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining book. I am a big fan of court trails and this story really gave me great pleasure. Admired Donovan's patience in dealing with Abel and the soviets and east berliners communists. As a side note I need to point out an incorrect statement made by Jason Matthews in the Foreword section where he writes: "Negotiated (Donovan) the release from Cuba of thousands of captured Bay of Pigs commandoes in 1963". The release was in reality a buy out of the commandoes required by Fidel Castro, he asked and obtained from Kennedy millions of dollars worth of tractors and nonmilitary supplies, and secondly the number of "released" commandoes was aroun eleven hundred not thousands as stated by Matthews. Just wanted to state the incorrect misleading comment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like historical non-fiction about spying this is a book for you. It has most intriguing and difficult to put down. It demonstrates that our system of justice as designed by the founding Fathers does work
Davisc More than 1 year ago
Strangers On a Bridge by James B Donovan Read the book first! That's what the advertisement said, and that is what I did. Now, I look forward to seeing the movie with Tom Hanks as James B Donovan. James B Donovan was a lawyer, a defense lawyer no less. He was General Counsel for the OSS in WWII and assisted with the Nuremberg Trials after the war. His background made him the perfect choice for defense counsel for Rudolf Abel accused Russian spy. "Our committee feels strongly that American justice along with the Soviet Colonel, will be on trial," the chairman of the Brooklyn Bar Association told Donovan. Donovan knew this would be no easy defense task. Feelings against the Russians were strong in 1957 America, but Donovan believed in the Constitution and that "every man, however despised, is entitled to counsel and a fair trial." Despite the criticism and his own patriotic duties James B Donovan became the legal counsel for accused spy Rudolf Abel. I enjoyed reading Strangers On a Bridge immensely. It reads like Donovan's personal diary. It not only gives the reader insight into a unique time in America's history, but also it shows us how the defense lawyer is such an integral part of our nation's justice system. Donovan takes the reader through the trial and subsequent appeals and all the way to a unique bridge in Berlin for an incredible prisoner exchange between two world powers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dry dry story by arragant man. Name dropper with no humility. Not nearly as good as movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago