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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,059 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Originally published in 1964, this is the “enthralling…truly remarkable” (The New York Times Book Review) insider account of the Cold War spy exchange that is now the subject of the major motion picture Bridge of Spies by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Hanks—with a new foreword by Jason Matthews, New York Times bestselling author of Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason.

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Paperback, 464 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Scribner
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Brent If you scroll through these photos, the letter is shown and the caption states, "Subsequent to negotiating the exchange of Russian spy Rudolf Abel for…moreIf you scroll through these photos, the letter is shown and the caption states, "Subsequent to negotiating the exchange of Russian spy Rudolf Abel for U2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers on February 10, 1962, Donovan was personally thanked by President John F. Kennedy. (James B. Donovan Collection, Box 25, Folder 6-9)." I also wondered about this letter, since there was no explanation in the book. Also found an article about the events of this book in a Daily Mail on-line article, with a photo of JFK and Mr. Donovan and info in the article that the letter is from JFK. The link keeps going away, but is: http://www.hoover.org/slideshows/arti...
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 ·  1,059 ratings  ·  131 reviews


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Jack
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
...I will admit that I did not know this particular event in history until the recent film "Bridge of Spies." I had planned to read this book a couple of months ago when I first learned about that film, but did not actually purchase the book until after the film was released.

Although generally accurate, the film dramatizes much of the story. There was no mention in the book of a shooting at James Donovan's house, for instance. And he was on vacation when he got word that he was selected to defen
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Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
An interesting 1960s account of the Rudolf Abel spy case and subsequent exchange.

Rudolf Abel was a KGB agent who lived undercover in New York between 1948 and 1957. This account is written by the lawyer who defended and does suffer from the fact it was written in the 1960s and the security concerns of the time prevent it from being a full account.

That being said it provides great insight into the tradecraft used by Abel and his associates as well as the resulting court case, negotiations over an
...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
An interesting 1960s account of the Rudolf Abel spy case and subsequent exchange.

Rudolf Abel was a KGB agent who lived undercover in New York between 1948 and 1957. This account is written by the lawyer who defended and does suffer from the fact it was written in the 1960s and the security concerns of the time prevent it from being a full account.

That being said it provides great insight into the tradecraft used by Abel and his associates as well as the resulting court case, negotiations over an
...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reissued because Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are making a movie, this is a 1964 memoir by James Donovan, a lawyer who had been a deputy prosecutor at Nuremberg, and who found his Adirondack vacation derailed by assignment to represent Col. Rudolf Abel, a KGB agent who had recently been arrested after nine years of running deep-cover agents in America. Donovan, who did genuinely believe every deserved a lawyer, came to be fascinated by his cultured, ruthless, brilliant client, and kept a diary ...more
Sean O
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5star
I bought this book right after seeing the Spielberg/Hanks movie "Bridge of Spies."

This is the memoir written by James Donovan, the lawyer appointed to Rudolph Abel, the Soviet Spy discovered in the "Hollow Nickel Case."

Bottom line up front: The book is as good as the movie. AND the movie is a good adaptation of the book.

I liked this book because it covers the entire case: from the time that Donovan is asked to represent Abel, all the way through the sensitive and unofficial negotiations that le
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Jessica
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Nonfiction is not one of my favorite genres in general, but this book was so engaging and, in so many ways, hard to believe it is all true. This book makes me want to go to law school; Mr. Donovan's strong and emphatic faith in the law, even when he is defending a man that betrayed our country, illustrates all the best things about our system of law in this country. And how it all ended, with him helping to orchestrate a prisoner exchange in a country we didn't recogn ...more
La Biblioteca di Eliza
http://labibliotecadieliza.blogspot.i...

1962. Il mondo vive in piena Guerra Fredda, diviso dalla Cortina di Ferro. Lo spionaggio tra le due metà del mondo è all'ordine del giorno. Il libro è in realtà un diario giorno per giorno tenuto da James Donovan, avvocato di lunga fama, che ha partecipato tra le altre cose al Processo di Norimberga. Donavan accetta di difendere Rudolf Abel, considerato la spia russa su suolo americano più importante e misteriosa del secolo scorso. Giorno dopo giorno e inc
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Michelle
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage, cold-war
"Bridge of Spies" was one of my favourite from last year's batch of "movies I watched on the plane" (which is all the movies I watched). This book, by the real-life protagonist of the film, lawyer James Donovan, goes deep into the story of the trial of Rudolf Abel and his subsequent exchange.

It was really interesting to see the places where the film had added drama - which was everywhere; there were exceedingly few people who objected to Donovan's taking Abel's case, there was no shooting throug
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Jill Meyer
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm pretty sure that most of the people reading this review of "Strangers on the Bridge", by the late James Donovan, found their way here after seeing the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie, "Bridge of Spies". Hanks starred as the lawyer in the Rudolf Abel spy case and subsequent prisoner exchange in Berlin of Abel for Francis Gary Powers and a graduate student, Frederic Pryor.

While the movie showed some of the Abel capture and then the trial, and finally the appeal to the United States Supreme Co
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Deborah
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the true story behind the film Bridge of Spies and was written by James Donovan, the lawyer and communicator for the Russian spy Rudolf Abel. It tells how Donovan came to represent, empathise and fight for the release or repatriation of Abel. Abel was eventually exchanged for Powers an American U2 pilot caught in Russia and Frederic Pryor an American student trapped in East Germany.
This was a maverick choice and although not the sort of book I would have chosen for myself I thought I rea
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Julia
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great Cold War story! Spies and US-USSR relations as observed by those who participated in the espionage trial of Col. Abel - a deep undercover spy for the former Soviet Union. The story also gave great insight into the workings of the US judicial system. The book was written by James Donovan, the lead defense attorney in the case. He was a fascinating person who was also an attorney at the Nuremberg Trials and who, at the request of President Kennedy, negotiated the release of over 9,000 "pri ...more
Donna Byrne
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating and riveting. The author represented Rudolph Abel (the Russian spy) in his espionage trial and various appeals and also negotiated the exchange of prisoners.

Even knowing the outcome, I found the courtroom drama riveting, with a behind-the-scenes look at the defense's legal strategy and clear explanations of legal rules. This will be one of my top recommendations for incoming law students.

Joann
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
411 pages of court battles, through to the Supreme Court, probably super exciting to lawyers, then 15 pages of fascinating and true cloak-and-dagger spy exchanges at the end. Probably popular when it came out, when people remembered the headlines. Not as interesting now, but not sad to have read it.
Brett
Oct 20, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm interested in the movie, but the book is only somewhat interesting. Focuses almost entirely on the trial of the Soviet spy, including lengthy excerpts of only mildly interesting testimony, and only the last bit of the book focuses on the event that gives the book its name
Connie
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is the one that the movie Bridge of Spys was based on. A wonderful explanation of the case and all that went on in the process of the case and trial.
Brandi
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved it. I love how Donovan took time out of the discussion of trial prep to talk about Sputnik's launch, I love how he relates the information, letting it unfold one day at a time (the book was written based on an elaboration of and a polishing of the diary he kept during and leading up to the trial), and even though I watched the movie first, and am now somewhat frustrated by some of the parts they left out, I have to say that Tom Hanks was the perfect actor to play Donovan.

Back
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Paul
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Very thorough book covering the trial and eventual trade of Soviet spy Abel. The narrative was extremely detailed making it hard to keep my attention in parts. I originally picked up this book to learn something about Francis Gary Powers but his was but a very small portion of the book. Regardless, the author described a very intense case during the Cold War that reminded me of some of those super power tensions from my youth. Two great passages are below.

- Preparation is the only way to get re
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Faith
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this book as research for our NHD project. It was extremely informational, providing direct quotes, dates, pictures, letters, particulars about Abel's trial, the negotiations leading up to the swap and the spy exchange itself. Abel's trial is quite lengthy and gets hard to read at times, however, it is only so long because of how detailed Donovan's account is. Donovan, along with several other people in the book, provide a sense of dry humour which is quite entertaining and helps to br ...more
Brandon
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not a flashy book. Its basis in court proceedings, legal journals, and government documents doesn't lend a lot of sparkle to the storytelling. That said, it makes up ground by considering whether justice is a human right or just an American right. It's a question that's harder to answer when the recipient of justice is a potential Russian spy than if they were, say, a refugee or a somehow disenfranchised person. But maybe offering justice and due process to all--even those who may not me ...more
Xallian
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's an incredible story of honour, integrity and respect. It's fascinating how people thought about the rule of law, and held it as the highest virtue a state can have, even when their basic security is compromised. It's sad to see that today we do not share these values and easily forget why we put them in place. This book tells about a victory of democracy over authoritarianism, victory of openness over secrecy. However, it objectively shows that Clausewitzian philosophy (Kriegsraison geht vo ...more
Andrew Parnell
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
After seeing the movie Bridge of spies, I stumble upon this book and with almost uncontrollable excitement I started reading this and for a while was enjoying the 1960s prose. The content, however, I felt was self-serving and often stepped onto the train tracks of the cold war express. For example, Mr. Donovan often stated how the court case of Rudolf Abel, was a perfect example of Western democracy and the rule of law and how it was so unbiased. He has often stated how any of the Soviet trials ...more
Mike
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had remembered hearing about the case of Francis Gary Powers in school, but didn't know much beyond that he was shot down and later swapped with the U.S. I didn't know who he was swapped for, etc. So this book was helpful to fill in that knowledge.

It's engagingly written, enough that you can make it through a long trial (with blow by blow accounts of each day in court) and serves as a great primary source for this Cold War case. Certainly, there was more to the story than what Donovan was priv
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Mary
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very well written and, despite being first published in 1964, has much to say about the American process of Law. The diary-like format was easy to follow; all the people mentioned were very human, as was the writer - no sugar-coating, just honesty and integrity. A good read given the times we seem to be living in, i.e. current events and Russia. Jason Matthews' forward was excellent, I thought. Recommend it completely.
Aurora Dimitre
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
|3.5 Stars|

This wasn't like, bad. It wasn't my normal taste of book, both in terms of subject matter (though the Cold War stuff is pretty interesting, it's not my favorite part of history to learn about) or in terms of writing style (dry, to the point, simple to the point of choppy and bare), but I didn't hate my time reading it. It wasn't bad, and I do feel like I learned something, so like, there's that.
Tegan
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read Giles Whittell’s Bridge of Spies, which got me interested in the real story. I found this book written by Col Abel’s defense attorney. It is truly amazing the courage it would have taken during this time to defend a person who was all but convicted as guilty before trial began. Much discussion continues as to which individuals actually rate the rights granted by the constitution.
Gabriel Buosi
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Livro muito interessante para quem tem curiosidade sobre a política internacional durante a Guerra Fria... Porém não espere uma história com uma visão ampla, pois o narrador parece ser um firme patriota americano e suas exposições são "comprometidas" por sua visão. Apesar disto o livro prende a atenção e tive insights bem interessantes durante a leitura, especialmente, acredito, por ser advogado.
David Rope
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Overall excellent account of the Russian American Spy Swap highlighting the art of negotiation. Would consider a must read for politicians to consider alternative ways to deal with foreign relations. As an attorney Donovan is somewhat tedious in his description of the courtroom case, but overall a good read.
Sahani Perera
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Clearly one of the best espionage related books I have ever read. Though dull at times, Mr. Donovan was gracious enough to provide the actual accounts of the Colonel Able incident that took place between 1957 to 1962. I found the reference books stated by Mr. Donovan and Colonel Able at great interest that opened a gate way for my future additions to my library.
Barbara Franklin
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great book if you are interested in either law or espionage or both. Written by Rudolf Abel’s lawyer, it gives great insight into the US trial, Supreme Court matters & the exchange of Abel for CIA pilot Gary Powers.
AVid_D
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book, though I could understand if another reader might find it a little dry.

My biggest gripe, and this is not about the story itself, was the sense of self-satisfaction coming from the author.
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“Preparation is the only way to get ready for a hard test, whether a court trial, race, boxing match, Broadway appearance or death. You can fake readiness, falling back on past experience and bravado. But without backbreaking preparation for a main event, you know inside that you aren’t really ready.” 4 likes
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