BOSTON — One of the mini growth-industries spawned by the Soviet collapse has been tell-all books written by former Soviet officials and intelligence officers. Even before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there was a trickle of such books by defectors eager to tell the West their secrets and start collecting royalty checks. After the Soviet flag fell from the Kremlin in 1991, dozens of books were published by former Communist Party apparatchiks, KGB agents, and others.
The quality and veracity of their insights vary, but the more sensationalistic fare seems to sell better. "It's huge, these guys know the market," says Leonard Bushkoff, who frequently reviews books on history for the Monitor. Unfortunately, he says, the sensational revelations usually reveal more about what ex-spies think we want to read than the truth about what went on behind the Iron Curtain.
One of the best books by ex-spies is, "Inside The Aquarium," an early entry in the tell-all game, written by Viktor Suvorov several years after his defection in 1978. Is it all true? Maybe - or maybe not - but that's not the point. The former Soviet military intelligence agent knows how to tell a good story. The latest entry to make a splash among spy-novel fans is, "The KGB Guide to Cities of The World," published by the FSB, the KGB's successor agency. From it, readers of Russian can learn which of their favorite tourist destinations was infested by globe-trotting KGB agents. Harrod's in London tops the list. A translation of the book in English is on the way.
One KGB entry for the computer literate is a CD-ROM - in English and Russian, for $144 - which details the agency's organization and the history of the fabled First Directorate (foreign intelligence). It contains interviews with former KGB agents and a mini-tour of the now not-so-secret KGB museum. The erstwhile workers for communism say more discs may be on the way pending further market research.
More books from the 'tell-all' category:
IN CONFIDENCE: MOSCOW'S AMBASSADOR TO AMERICA'S SIX COLD WAR PRESIDENTS
By Anatoly Dobrynin
692 pp., $30
THE FIRST DIRECTORATE: MY THIRTY-TWO YEARS IN INTELLIGENCE
AGAINST THE WEST
By Oleg Kalugin
Thomas Dunne Books
384 pp., $23.95
SPECIAL TASKS: THE MEMOIRS OF AN UNWANTED WITNESS - A SOVIET SPYMASTER
By Pavel and Anatolii Sudoplatov with Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schechter
Little, Brown, & Co.
576 pp., $14.95
INSIDE THE AQUARIUM: THE MAKING OF A SOVIET SPY
By Victor Suvorov, Macmillan
256 pp., $17.95
Books from research in cold-war archives:
SECRET WORLD OF AMERICAN COMMUNISM: DOCUMENTS FROM THE SOVIET ARCHIVES
By Harvey C. Klehr et. al. Yale University Press
386 pp., $30
STALIN AND THE BOMB: THE SOVIET UNION AND ATOMIC ENERGY 1939-56
By David Holloway
Yale University Press
480 pp., $35
A STATE WITHIN A STATE: THE KGB AND ITS HOLD ON RUSSIA - PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
By Yevgenia Albats
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 416 pp., $25
INSIDE THE KREMLIN'S COLD WAR: FROM STALIN TO KHRUSHCHEV
By Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov Harvard University Press 346 pp., $29.95
SPIES WITHOUT CLOAKS: THE KGB'S SUCCESSORS
By Amy Knight
Princeton University Press
336 pp., $24.95