“Kati Marton’s True Believer is a true story of intrigue, treachery, murder, torture, fascism, and an unshakable faith in the ideals of Communism….A fresh take on espionage activities from a critical period of history” (Washington Independent Review of Books).
True Believer reveals the life of Noel Field, once a well-meaning and privileged American who spied for Stalin during the 1930s and forties. Later, a pawn in Stalin’s sinister master strategy, Field was kidnapped and tortured by the KGB and forced to testify against his own Communist comrades.
How does an Ivy League-educated, US State Department employee, deeply rooted in American culture and history, become a hardcore Stalinist? The 1930s, when Noel Field joined the secret underground of the International Communist Movement, were a time of national collapse. Communism promised the righting of social and political wrongs and many in Field’s generation were seduced by its siren song. Few, however, went as far as Noel Field in betraying their own country.
With a reporter’s eye for detail, and a historian’s grasp of the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century, Kati Marton, in a “relevant…fascinating…vividly reconstructed” (The New York Times Book Review) account, captures Field’s riveting quest for a life of meaning that went horribly wrong. True Believer is supported by unprecedented access to Field family correspondence, Soviet Secret Police records, and reporting on key players from Alger Hiss, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and World War II spy master, “Wild Bill” Donovan—to the most sinister of all: Josef Stalin. “Relevant today as a tale of fanaticism and the lengths it can take one to” (Publishers Weekly), True Believer is “riveting reading” (USA TODAY), an astonishing real-life spy thriller, filled with danger, misplaced loyalties, betrayal, treachery, and pure evil, with a plot twist worthy of John le Carré.
With thorough research and stylistic verve, Marton (Paris: A Love Story), a veteran journalist and popular historian, relates the tragic tale of Noel Haviland Field (1904 1970), the scion of a well-off Quaker family who attended Harvard, began a successful career at the State Department, and become a spy for the Soviet Union. After recruiting family members to join him in this work, Field fled the U.S. when he was exposed by Whittaker Chambers. He then fell under Soviet suspicion because of his brief work for the OSS (forerunner to the CIA) during WWII and support for some anti-Stalinist communist dissidents. Lured to Prague under false pretenses, Field was arrested by Stalinist agents, tortured, and held in solitary confinement in Budapest for five years. Yet even when freed, Field defended the repressive government that followed the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. In his last years, Field edited an obscure Hungarian literary magazine where he informed on colleagues, remained a loyal apparatchik even after Khrushchev denounced Stalin, and died in obscurity. Marton, whose Hungarian journalist parents scored the only interview Field and his wife ever gave to the Western press, tells Field's story beautifully, reminding readers of the potential horrors of well-meaning but unquestioning idealism.