Best of Enemies

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  • About Best of Enemies

    The thrilling true story of two Cold War spies, CIA case officer Jack Platt and KGB agent Gennady Vasilenko–improbable friends at a time when they should have been anything but.

    In 1978, CIA maverick Jack Platt and KGB agent Gennady Vasilenko were new arrivals on the Washington, DC intelligence scene, with Jack working out of the CIA’s counterintelligence office and Gennady out of the Soviet Embassy. Both men, already notorious iconoclasts within their respective agencies, were assigned to seduce the other into betraying his country in the urgent final days of the Cold War, but instead the men ended up becoming the best of friends-blood brothers. Theirs is a friendship that never should have happened, and their story is chock full of treachery, darkly comic misunderstandings, bureaucratic inanity, the Russian Mafia, and landmark intelligence breakthroughs of the past half century.

    In Best of Enemies, two espionage cowboys reveal how they became key behind-the-scenes players in solving some of the most celebrated spy stories of the twentieth century, including the crucial discovery of the Soviet mole Robert Hanssen, the 2010 Spy Swap which freed Gennady from Soviet imprisonment, and how Robert De Niro played a real-life role in helping Gennady stay alive during his incarceration in Russia after being falsely accused of spying for the Americans. Through their eyes, we see the distinctions between the Russian and American methods of conducting espionage and the painful birth of the new Russia, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, dreams he can roll back to the ideals of the old USSR.

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  • Praise for Best of Enemies

    Best of Enemies is a knockout thriller about one of the great yarns in international espionage: how an American CIA agent and a Russian KGB agent wound up on the same side. You have to read it to believe it.”

    ―Tom Brokaw


    “A compelling Cold War fable that illuminates the essence of a human recruitment operation: the unshakable friendship between two men that endured in the Wilderness of Mirrors.”

    ―Jason Matthews, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Sparrow spy novels and 33-year CIA veteran trained by Jack Platt


    “This strange, exciting and intriguing tale, laced with international derring-do and extreme personal sacrifice, is destined to become a Cold War classic.”

    ―John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of Mindhunter and Law & Disorder


    “This book is crucial for anyone who wants to understand espionage or the Cold War.”

    ― James Grady, New York Times bestselling author of Six Days of the Condor


    “If John le Carrй wrote nonfiction and was a great reporter, Best of Enemies would be the result.”

    ―Laurence Leamer, New York Times bestselling author of The Kennedy Women 


    “It’s not often you come across a book that’s engrossing, topical and instructive;Best of Enemies is all of those things, and then some. Empathy is never easy — as this book makes abundantly clear — but if there were more of it in the world today, we’d all be better off. A must read.”

    ―Ian Bremmer, bestselling author of Us vs. Them, Superpower, and The J Curve


    Best of Enemies is a riveting spy thriller and love story — and best of all, it is a true one! The incredible tale of the deep and enduring friendship of CIA legend ‘Cowboy’ Jack Platt and charismatic KGB spy Gennady Vasilenko frames a mesmerizing journey thorugh the Cold War that did more than entertain me — it also gave me more insight into the intelligence world in the US and Russia than anything else I have read.”

    ―Norman Ornstein, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute


    “Cowboys and commies — sworn adversaries Jack (CIA) and Gennady (KGB) save each other’s lives and become the best of friends. Guns, girls, and gulags — and the iconic Robert De Niro in a real-life role — delivered by two of Washington’s most savvy insiders — Eric Dezenhall and Gus Russo.”

    ― Richard Ben-Veniste, Watergate Special Prosecutor, Member 9/11 Commission


    Best of Enemies is the ultimate true-life spy tale. Gus Russo and Eric Dezenhall have written a rollicking Cold War thriller centered around the most crazily improbable of friendships — between top spies at the CIA and KGB. Russo and Dezenhall’s deep reporting, including interviews with the spies themselves, proves again that fiction has nothing on truth. A wild cast of characters; even Robert De Niro makes an appearance. Important and entertaining.”

    ―Philip Shenon, New York Timesbestselling author of A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination and The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation

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  • Reviews for Best of Enemies

    The New York Times,  November 2018

    Fast-paced and lively, “Best of Enemies” is suitable for the general reader with an interest in Cold War espionage

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    The Washington Times, November 2018

    “Best of Enemies…a truly remarkable account of one such bonding, with an outcome of international significance — a highly readable work that is headed for Hollywood

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    Cipher Brief, October 2018

    “Best of Enemies has all the elements that Hollywood loves…It’s rich in detail that espionage aficionados will enjoy and awards it four trench coats. We highly recommend it.”

    Library Journal, September 2018

    (Starred review) “VERDICT Highly recommended for those who miss the show the Americans and others who immerse themselves in intelligence intrigue.”

    New York Post, September 2018

    Best of Enemies delves into the improbable and true story of the friendship between CIA officer, Jack Platt and KGB Agent, Gennady Vasilenko who were assigned to turn each other and instead became best friends for life.”
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    Publishers Weekly, August 2018

    “An informative and exciting history for the general reader and for the espionage expert alike.”
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    KIRKUS, August 2018

    “A rollicking tale of Cold War espionage… Russo and Dezenhall aptly capture this complex narrative, based on its protagonists’ long-classified recollections… An unusual, entertaining story of steadfast friendship amid governmental treachery.”
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    The Authors >
  • About the Authors

    Gus RussoGUS RUSSO is an author, musician, composer, and television documentary producer/reporter, having contributed to television specials for ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, in addition to networks in Germany, France, UK, Mexico, and Japan. His books include Supermob, The Outfit, Brothers in Arms (with Stephen Molton), and Where Were You (with Tom Brokaw and Harry Moses). Best of Enemies is his ninth book. His film scores include Basket Case and Brain Damage. He is on the Advisory Council of the International Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas. A former tennis instructor in Honolulu, Gus considers it his calling to improve the connotation of the word “dilettante.” He currently resides in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy (the Gould Belt, specifically).

    Eric DezenhallERIC DEZENHALL is the CEO of Dezenhall Resources, Ltd., a crisis management and public affairs firm. He is the author of ten books, including three nonfiction texts on scandal and crisis management, including Damage Control and Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal. Eric is also the author of six novels, including Money Wanders and The Devil Himself. As an investigative journalist, Eric was the first to write about the diaries of the late mobster Meyer Lansky, which appeared in the Baltimore Sun and The New Republic. Eric was the valedictorian of the bottom half of his class at Dartmouth, an achievement for which he was widely resented. His books have appeared in libraries and bookstores adjacent to those by Darwin, DeLillo, Dickens, Didion, Doctorow, and Dos Passos. In his spare time, he makes up words such as “nostralgia” (having fond memories of one’s nostrils) and “handsomniac” (being so handsome you can’t sleep). He lives near Washington, DC, with his family and a herd of alpacas.

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Best of Enemies - Gus Russo and Eric Dezenhall
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