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Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961

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A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum unveils the shocking, untold story of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s secret life as a spy for both the Americans and the Soviets before and during World War II. While he was the curator of the CIA Museum, Nicholas Reynolds, a longtime military intelligence expert, began to discover tantalizing clues that sugg A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum unveils the shocking, untold story of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s secret life as a spy for both the Americans and the Soviets before and during World War II. While he was the curator of the CIA Museum, Nicholas Reynolds, a longtime military intelligence expert, began to discover tantalizing clues that suggested Ernest Hemingway’s involvement in the Second World War was much more complex and dangerous than has been previously understood. Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy brings to light for the first time this riveting secret side of Hemingway’s life—when he worked closely with both the American OSS, a precursor to the CIA, and the Soviet NKVD, the USSR’s forerunner to the KGB to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Reynolds dig deep into Hemingway’s involvement in World War II, from his recruitment by both the Americans and the Soviets—who valued Hemingway for his journalistic skills and access to sources—through his key role in gaining tactical intelligence for the Allies during the liberation of Paris, to his later doubts about communist ideology and his undercover work in Cuba. As he examines the links between his work as a spy and as an author, Reynolds reveals how Hemingway’s wartime experiences shook his faith in literature and contributed to the writer’s block that plagued him for much of the final two decades of his life. Reynolds also illuminates how those same experiences also informed one of Hemingway’s greatest works—The Old Man and the Sea—the final novel published during his lifetime. A unique portrait as fast-paced and exciting as the best espionage thrillers, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy illuminates a hidden side of a revered artist and is a thrilling addition to the annals of World War II.


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A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum unveils the shocking, untold story of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s secret life as a spy for both the Americans and the Soviets before and during World War II. While he was the curator of the CIA Museum, Nicholas Reynolds, a longtime military intelligence expert, began to discover tantalizing clues that sugg A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum unveils the shocking, untold story of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s secret life as a spy for both the Americans and the Soviets before and during World War II. While he was the curator of the CIA Museum, Nicholas Reynolds, a longtime military intelligence expert, began to discover tantalizing clues that suggested Ernest Hemingway’s involvement in the Second World War was much more complex and dangerous than has been previously understood. Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy brings to light for the first time this riveting secret side of Hemingway’s life—when he worked closely with both the American OSS, a precursor to the CIA, and the Soviet NKVD, the USSR’s forerunner to the KGB to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Reynolds dig deep into Hemingway’s involvement in World War II, from his recruitment by both the Americans and the Soviets—who valued Hemingway for his journalistic skills and access to sources—through his key role in gaining tactical intelligence for the Allies during the liberation of Paris, to his later doubts about communist ideology and his undercover work in Cuba. As he examines the links between his work as a spy and as an author, Reynolds reveals how Hemingway’s wartime experiences shook his faith in literature and contributed to the writer’s block that plagued him for much of the final two decades of his life. Reynolds also illuminates how those same experiences also informed one of Hemingway’s greatest works—The Old Man and the Sea—the final novel published during his lifetime. A unique portrait as fast-paced and exciting as the best espionage thrillers, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy illuminates a hidden side of a revered artist and is a thrilling addition to the annals of World War II.

30 review for Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katie B

    I was really hoping I would enjoy this book but I don't think it is for a casual nonfiction fan like myself. Some authors, like Erik Larson, are able to present information to the reader who might know next to nothing about the topic but get caught up in the story because the writer has a knack for captivating an audience. Unfortunately with this book I was bored most of the time. That's not to say it is a horrible book and it is certainly well researched, but I think it will mainly appeal to hu I was really hoping I would enjoy this book but I don't think it is for a casual nonfiction fan like myself. Some authors, like Erik Larson, are able to present information to the reader who might know next to nothing about the topic but get caught up in the story because the writer has a knack for captivating an audience. Unfortunately with this book I was bored most of the time. That's not to say it is a horrible book and it is certainly well researched, but I think it will mainly appeal to huge Hemingway fans rather than those just looking for any nonfiction read. I won a copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Nicholas Reynolds documents Ernest Hemingway’s life as a spy for the US and the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) and builds the case that the emotional strain of having had Russian contacts led to his breakdown and suicide in 1961. In the Spanish Civil War Hemingway met and worked with NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) members as sources and on the production crew of “The Spanish Earth”. In WW II Hemingway trolled the waters around Cuba looking for German subs and on the ground sought out contacts on beha Nicholas Reynolds documents Ernest Hemingway’s life as a spy for the US and the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) and builds the case that the emotional strain of having had Russian contacts led to his breakdown and suicide in 1961. In the Spanish Civil War Hemingway met and worked with NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) members as sources and on the production crew of “The Spanish Earth”. In WW II Hemingway trolled the waters around Cuba looking for German subs and on the ground sought out contacts on behalf of the FBI. Once back in the action (Europe) he again worked with Russians who were then US allies. In this time he agreed to provide helpful information to the NKVD. The (partial) opening of the Russian archives has a log for “Argo” (Hemingway’s code name) containing a small number of contacts and no significant contributions. After the war, an anti-communist fervor took over US politics. From Cuba, Hemingway watched as the HUAC destroyed the careers of writers with far less contact with communists than he had had. The story is told through facts and with Reynolds’s overlay that Hemingway, no policy wonk, was true to his anti-fascist leanings. Reynolds shows that as times changed Hemingway’s “premature anti-fascist” work and life could be suspect. This influenced his writing and caused him to lower his profile. He tried halt publication of earlier stories and a play with political overtones. He discreetly supported the Cuban Revolution. Reynolds further poses that having to leave his beloved Cuba due to a cause he supported added to his stress, his proclivity to depression, his paranoia and his suicide. This adds to the Hemingway saga. I’ll be interested in an interpretive biography that integrates the research presented here. Some areas of interest: Why did Hemingway chose to live under Batista whose form of government he despised? Hemingway’s letters to Buck Lantham are defensive and paranoic: why write this and why write it to Buck Lantham? With Hemingway’s prescience (i.e. noting US equipment all together in Pearl Harbor made a target to be hit; cutting sugar quotas would deliver Cuba to Russia) how could or why did he miss the authoritarianism of Stalin and Castro? The book is a quick read. Most of the b & w photos are worth way more than 1000 words. It is well footnoted. It begins with a list of people… some are helpfully labeled but does a reader of this book need a 10- 20 word definition for J. Edgar Hoover? Or Leon Trotsky? Chiang Kai-Shek? An index would have been helpful, for instance, when Elizabeth Bentley re-curs at the end, I wanted to review her earlier contacts with Hemingway. A value added for this book is that in glimpses how Russians recruit their assets. They take the long view and keep very good records. The book reminds you that in the 1950’s they had some very highly placed informants in the US, and 70 years later they still do.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Anderson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Lots of smoke, much speculation and little convincing evidence. Plus the writing was less than stellar. Your mileage may vary.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    In Nicholas Reynolds new book, WRITER, SAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY: ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S SECRET ADVENTURES, 1935-1961, the author, the CIA Museum’s historian poses the question as to why Hemingway, who tried all forms of spying, before and during World War II would sign on with Stalin’s henchmen at the NKVD. Reynolds relates that he had been working on an OSS (Office of Strategic Services) exhibit at the museum when he came across the links between Soviet intelligence and Hemingway and wondered how this In Nicholas Reynolds new book, WRITER, SAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY: ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S SECRET ADVENTURES, 1935-1961, the author, the CIA Museum’s historian poses the question as to why Hemingway, who tried all forms of spying, before and during World War II would sign on with Stalin’s henchmen at the NKVD. Reynolds relates that he had been working on an OSS (Office of Strategic Services) exhibit at the museum when he came across the links between Soviet intelligence and Hemingway and wondered how this could have happened, and what it means for Hemingway’s legacy. Reynolds thesis is clear; Hemingway’s relationship with the NKVD was impactful, and this chapter in his life has often been overlooked. According to the author it influenced Hemingway’s decision making the last fifteen years of his life and played a role in his eventual suicide in 1961. With the Cold War/Red Scare all around him, it is Reynolds contention that Hemingway felt he was losing control of his life, something that he could not tolerate, so he ended it as a means of self-control. The thesis that Reynolds lays out is not really dealt with in a substantive manner until the latter stages of the narrative. Before the onset of the Cold War we are exposed to Hemingway’s contacts with various Soviet operatives in Washington, Spain, Cuba and Europe which did not seem to amount to a great deal except it put the author on the NKVD’s radar for the future. Soviet spymasters liked Hemingway’s public condemnations of the New Deal, England and France before World War II, particularly in relationship to allied neutrality during the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway was a firm believer in small government and resented Roosevelt’s domestic policy, especially when he sent so many “poor bonus marchers” (American veterans of World War I) to work in the Florida Keys during the 1935 hurricane season, resulting in many of their deaths. Hemingway’s life is a testament to controlling his environment to do the things he wanted to do whether it was in the Keys, Cuba, Spain, or the battlefields of Europe. This theme is dominant as Hemingway needed the stimulus of adventure and danger to get the most out of his life. The first few chapters concentrate on Hemingway’s experiences in Spain between 1937 and 1939, the heart of the civil war. Reynolds describes Hemingway’s transformation to support the Republican cause with almost a religious enthusiasm. The author makes a number of interesting observations as to why Hemingway became so obsessed with Spain. Hemingway wanted to be the dominant “war writer” of his generation, and viewed the civil war as a dress rehearsal for the coming European conflict, therefore his participation was an imperative. At this point Hemingway had a low opinion of the Soviet Union and felt that Joseph Stalin with his “show trials” (particularly the trial and execution of his friend Lev Kamenev) and collectivization policies was no better that Nazi Germany. Hemingway’s experience in Spain was impactful as he was his own “commissar,” as he ignored Comintern attempts to recruit him and saw himself as a humanitarian, military advisor, and most of all a writer in support of the Republican cause. If he had any affinity for the Soviet Union it was because they were the only ones who provided weapons and financial support for Republican forces against Franco. Even though he respected what Moscow was doing he realized the split in “communist” forces and the bloody purges and executions they carried out under orders from Stalin. Hemingway would come into contact with a number of important links to the NKVD in Spain including German Communist Gustav Regler, who would turn against “the stink of Moscow,” Jacob Golos, an NKVD operative in New York who recruited Hemingway in late 1940, and Alexander Orlov, the NKVD Station Chief in Spain (who is the subject of a new biography that just was published, STALIN’S AGENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ALEXANDER ORLOV) who would give Hemingway carte blanche to carry out operations against Franco’s forces as he viewed Hemingway as a true believer in the Republican cause, not a man under Soviet control. Hemingway’s experiences in Spain would form the basis of his classic novel, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. After Franco’s victory and the outbreak of World War II Hemingway was given the NKVD code name of “Argo.” For Hemingway, any cooperation with Soviet intelligence would be based on his abhorrence of fascism, and by the summer of 1941 he believed that Russia was the bulwark against Nazi Germany as France surrendered and the British were rescued at Dunkirk. Hemingway viewed Russia through that lens, and since his own country had ignored his warnings about what was about to take place, he would act in secret. “Hemingway was looking for that leeway in politics and war. He loved things military and being around soldiers, but did not want to join any man’s army. His preference was a lose affiliation with other irregulars, especially guerillas, which made him feel like he was part of the action but left him free to come and go as he pleased. He was not a communist, or even a fellow traveler.” There is no evidence that he was a Russian spy during the war, just a general commitment to fight fascism. (88-89) Reynolds does a workman like job following Hemingway’s journey throughout World War II. From his August, 1942 offer to spy for the United States in Havana and employ his boat, the Pilar to search for German U-Boats; his witnessing of the D-Day landing; gathering intelligence for the safest route to liberate Paris; almost being court martialed for exercising command, stockpiling weapons, and fighting to liberate the French capital; to his attachment to the US Army 22nd Infantry Regiment as it slogged through Belgium into Germany. Throughout the war Hemingway did prove to be an American asset, despite a number of controversies. Hemingway’s last hurrah was during the Battle of the Bulge, but by March, 1945 he was spent and returned to Havana to write down his wartime experiences in a new novel. Hemingway formed many important relationships in Spain and Europe, but none are more important than his friendship with Colonel Charles T. “Buck” Lanham who he fought with in France and Belgium, a relationship that would last a lifetime. Reynolds zeroes in on Hemingway’s persona in explaining that the thing Hemingway loved the best was “when he was risking his life, all of his senses fulling engaged, putting his well-developed field and military experiences to good use…..he also relished the comradeship that jelled in combat.” (183) The friendships he formed on the battlefield be it the patrician spy David Bruce, or Lanham, the thoughtful soldier were more important to him than anything. No one in the NKVD ever connected with Hemingway in this manner, and to this point Reynolds has not really laid the basis for his thesis which he finally delves into as the Cold War evolves after World War II. Finally, in the last fifty pages of the book the author returns to his thesis and reargues that Hemingway’s experiences in Spain and Havana would greatly affect his behavior for the last fifteen years of his life. Hemingway grew very concerned with the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations, McCarthy hearings, Rosenberg Trials and the entire domestic paranoid atmosphere in American politics after the Second World War. He grew increasingly anxious that his contacts with the NKVD in the 1930s and during the war might one day place him in front of a congressional committee. Hemingway swore off “causes” of any kind, including helping with an International Brigade Parade in New York City. Hemingway kept his distance from anything that could create difficulties for him. He reached the conclusion that it was more important to write books than be an activist, that could result in being blacklisted from publishing his works. As far as any contact with the NKVD after the war, Reynolds examines internal NKVD documents about re-contacting with Hemingway, but by 1950 this was never done, and for the remainder of his life he had no contact with Soviet intelligence. No matter what the reality was after the war, Hemingway realized that he had agreed to work with the NKVD in its war against fascism in Spain in the 1930s, and after the winter of 1940-41, even though he was clear he would not betray his country and only cared about defeating the Nazis. Reynolds brings his narrative to a close as he explores Hemingway’s relationship to the Cuban Revolution of the late 1950s until his death. For Hemingway the Cuban Revolution could be the unrealized hope of the 1930s Spanish Republic. For him “supporting Castro was the equivalent to fighting Franco and Hitler in Spain.” (250) However, the United States was pressuring him to make a choice, his country or his home, particularly when Castro ramped up his invective against Washington, and singled out Hemingway for praise. By this time Hemingway was a man in decline, with depression and paranoia resulting in “shock treatments” at the Mayo Clinic. With the failure of the Bay of Pigs, increasing fear of FBI surveillance and the loss of his home outside Havana, Hemingway would take his own life. Reynolds theory pertaining to Hemingway is well argued and researched, but I believe that Paul Hendrickson’s HEMINGWAY’S BOAT: EVERYTHING HE LOVED IN LIFE, AND LOST, 1934-1961 is a better study of the same period and is a bit more nuanced with a smoother narrative flow than Reynolds’ effort.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Dennington

    A well-researched biography of one of America’s greatest authors—Ernest Hemingway. The book starts with his attempt to help victims of the massive hurricane of 1937 which killed hundreds of World War One veterans in the Florida Keys. Roosevelt had put these unfortunate men to work during the depression. Hemingway’s rage was released soon after in writings where he blamed the President for their deaths. These men were the unfortunate remnants of the Bonus Army who had been lobbying in Washington A well-researched biography of one of America’s greatest authors—Ernest Hemingway. The book starts with his attempt to help victims of the massive hurricane of 1937 which killed hundreds of World War One veterans in the Florida Keys. Roosevelt had put these unfortunate men to work during the depression. Hemingway’s rage was released soon after in writings where he blamed the President for their deaths. These men were the unfortunate remnants of the Bonus Army who had been lobbying in Washington DC for their promised war bond money. I found Hemingway’s anger unreasonable. His views were considered left leaning. In 1937 he went off to assist the communists fight the fascists in Spain and cover the civil war. He is portrayed to be not so much a communist, as a fierce anti-fascists and he said as much in life. British author, George Orwell, also went to Spain on the side of the communists. He came back realizing that both sides were as bad as one another—communists fascists were just two heads of the same rabid dog. Orwell later went on to write the classics, Animal Farm and 1984. I would love to have seen and heard Hemingway and Orwell sit down for a cozy chat after their experiences in Spain. The writer, of this book Nickolas Reynolds, reveals that Hemingway had long been viewed by the Soviets as someone sympathetic to their cause, someone to be courted, especially, after his outbursts over the Florida hurricane disaster and his time spent backing Spanish communists. Later, Hemingway was approached and agreed to assist the NKVD (later to become the KGB). Hemingway, although he met their operatives, never actually spied for them, but just communicating with them would have been enough to cause him serious damage had the CIA and FBI known about it at the time. This character study shows all facets of Hemingway’s swashbuckling personality and his genius and importance as a literary figure. He had military and political smarts, but not to the degree he may have thought. He was passionate about what he believed in, outspoken, rude and brash. He was loyal to his friends and to his country and willing to fight for his beliefs. He was brave in the field of fire (and reckless), as he showed in France in World War II. He was a good looking, hard-drinking womanizer, spoiled rotten and despised by many. The last chapter of the book details his spiral downward where he is tormented by his previous connection with the NKVD. His love of Cuba and his beautiful home there was a big part of his life. His hatred of Batista, the present right-wing dictator, and his cheering on of Castro to take over Cuba and lead the country on a new path fit Hemingway’s ideals. It was what he’d hoped for in Spain back in 1937, but which never came to pass. Hemingway’s backing of Castro put him in an impossible position and he was viewed with suspicion in the US. When people were being put against the wall and shot routinely in Cuba and Castro’s true communist colors were revealed, Hemingway’s world crumbled. He spiraled into depression and paranoia ending in suicide. I had previously read about Hemingway’s paranoia, believing the FBI were spying on him, but I’d assumed that was part of his mental condition. But revelations in this book about him flirting with the NKVD, make his torment and self destruction understandable. A good informative read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin. McKernan

    Wow really good book. A lot of insight

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Papa Hemingway was definitely a fascinating fellow. Fun facts from this book: during WWII he talked the military into giving him machine guns and a bazooka to patrol for Nazi subs in his personal fishing boat. He was at Normandy. He flew missions with the RAF. He was active in the Spanish Civil War. He lived in Cuba during the revolution. And here is the kicker and the scoop from this author... He may have been a Soviet spy. In his defense, he was seriously anti-fascist and at the time the USSR Papa Hemingway was definitely a fascinating fellow. Fun facts from this book: during WWII he talked the military into giving him machine guns and a bazooka to patrol for Nazi subs in his personal fishing boat. He was at Normandy. He flew missions with the RAF. He was active in the Spanish Civil War. He lived in Cuba during the revolution. And here is the kicker and the scoop from this author... He may have been a Soviet spy. In his defense, he was seriously anti-fascist and at the time the USSR was our ally and the USA wasn't much interested in fighting Nazis while papa was quite interested. (He later also spied for the Brits and Uncle Sam) The reading is quite dry, but the stories and research are quite interesting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    It is a great time to be a Papaphile as the flow of Hemingwayiana is seemingly endless these days. I had no sooner finished "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" than already The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War was released at the end of March 2017, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition with previously unavailable material will arrive this summer and The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4, 1929-1931: 1929 - 1931 will follo It is a great time to be a Papaphile as the flow of Hemingwayiana is seemingly endless these days. I had no sooner finished "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" than already The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War was released at the end of March 2017, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition with previously unavailable material will arrive this summer and The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4, 1929-1931: 1929 - 1931 will follow in September 2017. The letters alone will keep the industry going until 2043 with its expected total 17 volumes being issued at the current biennial rate. “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy” does recycle a lot of previously available material, but it does so in the light of one additional bit of information. Notes* from temporarily declassified archives of the Russian NKVD (the 1930’s/1940’s predecessor of the KGB) reveal that they had counted Hemingway as a recruited agent from 1941 to 1949, going so far as to assign him the codename “Argo.” Although his spying career in the files is summed up with a final: “Did not give valuable info,” it is entirely possible that his flirtations with the Soviets from the Spanish Civil War period onwards did contribute to his paranoia of the FBI in his final years which, combined with a likely bipolar disorder and alcoholism, led to his 1961 suicide. Nicholas Reynolds was working for the CIA in their history museum when he came across this info and in “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy” (a nice appropriate riff on John le Carré’s spy-fiction title: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) he looks back at Hemingway’s days of reporting on the Spanish Civil War, the trip to China with Martha Gellhorn, the days of the Crook Factory (Hemingway’s own network of anti-Nazi spies in Cuba) and the Hooligan Navy (Hemingway’s U-Boat patrols), the WWII Invasion of France and the Liberation of Paris and finally Hemingway’s relationship to Cuba and especially Castro. I think any Hemingway buff will find it all newly fascinating with this extra layer of spying intrigue added in, even if Hemingway was likely only doing it for writing research just as he did in Spain. *Further information and links: The NKVD tie-in is not entirely new, it was reported in The Guardian in 2009 (see https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...) when Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America was published using the information from Aleksandr Vassiliev's notes. In the Vassiliev Notebooks (http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.or...) at the Cold War International History Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars the original Russian notes with English translations can be seen online. A few sample links follow: Pg. 178 in the Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance(http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.or...) gives a listing of all of the Hemingway references made in the notebooks: "Hemingway, Ernest: Soviet intelligence recruit, 1941-49. Popular American novelist. Cover name in Vassiliev’s notebooks: “Argo”. As Hemingway: Vassiliev Black Notebook, 81, 83, 89, 95; Vassiliev White Notebook #1, 25, 28-30; Vassiliev White Notebook #2, 139. As “Argo”: Vassiliev black Notebook, 81, 83, 89, 95-96, 102; Vassiliev White Notebook #1, 30." Pg. 81 in the Black Notebook (http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.or...) gives this summary: “pg. 67 List of agents in the Wash. Station with whom ties were not renewed (from 23.12.49): among them “Argo” – U.S. citizen. well-known journalist. recruited in 1941. Did not give valuable info.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    William

    Did not like the man just like I did not enjoy reading about Jack London. Recommend for somebody searching for bonus material instead of just re-reading the author's works. Did not like the man just like I did not enjoy reading about Jack London. Recommend for somebody searching for bonus material instead of just re-reading the author's works.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Nicholas Reynolds' excellent biography of Ernest Hemingway, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, focuses on aspects of the author's life that have generated no end of speculation and conspiracy theories. Even now, more than fifty years after his death, rumors abound. (As I was reading it, in fact, a friend asked me if there were any truth to the rumor that Hemingway may have been assassinated to silence him. The answer is no.) For anyone interested in the life of Hemingway, with his death-defying exploi Nicholas Reynolds' excellent biography of Ernest Hemingway, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, focuses on aspects of the author's life that have generated no end of speculation and conspiracy theories. Even now, more than fifty years after his death, rumors abound. (As I was reading it, in fact, a friend asked me if there were any truth to the rumor that Hemingway may have been assassinated to silence him. The answer is no.) For anyone interested in the life of Hemingway, with his death-defying exploits and extravagant personality, this book will provide fresh details and insights about matters such as his last two marriages, his one-and-only meeting with Fidel Castro, and his physical and mental deterioration in the last months of his life. This book also provides excellent background information for those interested other contemporary issues, including Russian involvement in the politics of other nations and the changing role of Cuba on the world stage.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I must admit to being a bit disappointed in this book. Writer, Sailor, Soldier, not so much Spy. That Hemingway was approached, given a code name, and met on several occassions with NKVD (the forrunner of the KGB) agents has been known for sometime. I thought there would be more to tell. Truth be told, it was a connection that had little to it. The Soviet's hope for some future dividend never was pursued or bore fruit. I enjoy any insights into Hemingway, and there are certainly some here. Writer I must admit to being a bit disappointed in this book. Writer, Sailor, Soldier, not so much Spy. That Hemingway was approached, given a code name, and met on several occassions with NKVD (the forrunner of the KGB) agents has been known for sometime. I thought there would be more to tell. Truth be told, it was a connection that had little to it. The Soviet's hope for some future dividend never was pursued or bore fruit. I enjoy any insights into Hemingway, and there are certainly some here. Writer, Sailor, Soldier indeed. He was a giant of 20th Century American literature, who lived a remarkable life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    D Reed Whittaker

    Semi-interesting. Came away with less respect for Hemingway as a person. He seems immature, insecure, and insensitive to others. A bit of a misogynist and bully. Not impressed with Reynolds writing style, but his research is impressive. If you're a Hemingway fan, I wouldn't encourage you to read this. If you want some insight into the writer's world, it may be worth your time. Semi-interesting. Came away with less respect for Hemingway as a person. He seems immature, insecure, and insensitive to others. A bit of a misogynist and bully. Not impressed with Reynolds writing style, but his research is impressive. If you're a Hemingway fan, I wouldn't encourage you to read this. If you want some insight into the writer's world, it may be worth your time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Conroy

    Intriguing book about the real Hemingway and his dark secrets.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John of Canada

    This was a very slow read for me,but I quite liked it.Any time a book makes me think or reconsider my ideas on anything it gets a good rating.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zach Fricke

    Sticky Note Factor: 📒📒📒 Most readers have heard of Ernest Hemingway. They probably had to read The Old Man and the Sea in high school. As they maybe even read a short story or two like Hills for White Elephants or A Clean-Well Lighted Place or The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. They may have even learned that he was an ambulance driver in World War 1. If you are from Michigan, you probably know that he frequented Michigan for its hunting and fishing - AKA The Nick Adams Stories. You might Sticky Note Factor: 📒📒📒 Most readers have heard of Ernest Hemingway. They probably had to read The Old Man and the Sea in high school. As they maybe even read a short story or two like Hills for White Elephants or A Clean-Well Lighted Place or The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. They may have even learned that he was an ambulance driver in World War 1. If you are from Michigan, you probably know that he frequented Michigan for its hunting and fishing - AKA The Nick Adams Stories. You might also have read Big-Two Hearted River. But what I didn't know was that he was more involved in Military escapades that probably any other American civilian in recent history. To start, Hemingway was heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War, a war largely forgotten by popular history but yet played a significant role as a precursor to World Word 2. In Spain, Hemingway fought against the Fascist leader Franco with his words, his films, and at times by concocting strategies with the leaders of the Republic. All Hemingway learned about war was showcased in For Whom the Bell Tolls, which will come into play later. Hemingway then went to China with a stopover in Hawaii. To his dismay, all of America's naval ships were stacked in one place, ready to be destroyed by the enemy. Hemingway had recognized this same disastrous tactic employed in WW 1. The same would hold true at Pearl Harbor. In China, Hemingway met with Chaing Kai-shek - an impossible task for any ordinary citizen. Chaing would be defeated within the decade by Mao-Tse-tung, the founder of the People Republic of China, the same government we see today. Back home, Hemingway settled in Cuba. Here he decided to take full part in the war effort that was brewing in the world. He would set up his own intelligence group to look for German U-Boats and try to catch German spies in Cuba. He would use his boat, the Pilar, as a scout looking for German Submarines. He even went so far as to talk the military into giving him a small arsenal of rocket-launchers, machine guns, and grenades to use if they had a close encounter. But such machinations were not enough for Hemingway. He traveled back to Europe, this time as a war correspondent in France. But like in the Spanish Civil war, Hemingway began to do more than just report. He corraled a group of resistance fighters and took up a position on a vacated road to Paris. Here he would send word back to the Allied forces to use his position to do reconnaissance. Hemingway was in the middle of the war effort again. All throughout his life, Hemingway was a strong anti-fascist. A feeling and a passion driven into him at a young age on the Italian front of World War I. Any group that opposed fascism Hemingway supported. This led to his involvement with the Soviets, even as they were becoming a world power and one that would soon oppose the United States. Here is where Hemingway starts to unravel. As the years of hard living take its toll, so too did the ideas of espionage, his relationships with soviets, communists, the US government, and his public legacy. Hemingway worried that his acts to oppose fascism would be misconstrued to be Anti-American. Hemingway was, if anything, a pure-blooded American. He fought time and time again to support his country as a writer, a correspondent, as a private citizen, and as an independent government intelligence officer. Hem fought for his country as much as any private citizen could. Then came Castro, who used For Whom the Bell Tolls as a guide to guerilla fighting. Hemingway was in support of the overthrow of the Cuban government, which became a dictatorship under the rule of Batiste. Hemingway thought again of the Spanish Republic. Here was another way to root out the evil in his favorite part of the world. Unfortunately, Hemingway's health took a turn for the worse. The years of war, accidents, and age took their toll. As the Cuban Revolution took a turn for the worse, Hemingway was forced to leave his home on the island, which for so many years provided such a place of refuge, writing, and comfort for the writer. In the end, it was too much. As much as I knew about Hemingway as a writer, I didn't understand the depths of his involvement in World War 1, the Spanish Civil War, World War 2, and the 26th of July Movement. The question I dare ask again is, do we need another Hemingway biography? The answer is a resounding yes! Here is more new information that transforms how we see this American icon. A man that was certainly, and painfully, aware of who he was in the world (Sometimes he thought too much of his role). But now we know how much he actually did to fight fascism for more than 30 years.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    A little bit better than a 3 really. In fact, I'm a little torn between continuing to stick with my random reading challenge, or jetting off and reading everything else I have by or about Hemingway. But it would be all gone, so maybe I should savor it instead. I listened to this on audio - I may choose to buy a paper copy in the future and re-read it, it was very name heavy for audio, and while the narrator had a very nice voice, I would have preferred a little animation. Two things I might offe A little bit better than a 3 really. In fact, I'm a little torn between continuing to stick with my random reading challenge, or jetting off and reading everything else I have by or about Hemingway. But it would be all gone, so maybe I should savor it instead. I listened to this on audio - I may choose to buy a paper copy in the future and re-read it, it was very name heavy for audio, and while the narrator had a very nice voice, I would have preferred a little animation. Two things I might offer about the writing, there were times when the author seemed to zig zag back and forth in time, returning to material already presented to establish a connection to the current focus. It created an odd sense of deja vu and a worry that my book had suddenly skipped backwards...second, the question of what Hemingway's relationship with the NKVD (later the KGB) really amounted to was a big focus, without a lot of actual documentation to flesh it out. The author presented a lot of "they could have this way," or "a third party may have," etc. etc. It really just seemed to be a lot of conjecture. Kind of like watching Ancient Aliens on TV LOL. On the positive side, I learned more about a man I really admire. The best part of the book was perhaps the epilogue where the author summarized things pretty succinctly and more or less in order. Discussion of his mental illness was late in arriving in my opinion, the signs were there for some time, I would like to read a work that goes at it from that direction. It is so sad to think that he might have had a better outcome if treatment had only developed faster. I did begin to wonder if there might have been a connection between his behavioral changes and the number of concussions he sustained. I think the NFL could weigh in on that these days....I look forward to future reading...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily Weathers

    Reynolds shows readers a Hemingway that’s a principled man, in his own terms, and a political man, though not at all savvy to the politics of men, but rather a wild, naturalistic man “[having] a better grasp of the jungle than of politics . . . he did not see that ‘modern dictators had no respect even for the law of the pack’” (61). The tragedy is that he comes to better understand this later in life, when it’s too late to change course from past mistakes, which (Reynolds convincingly argues) ha Reynolds shows readers a Hemingway that’s a principled man, in his own terms, and a political man, though not at all savvy to the politics of men, but rather a wild, naturalistic man “[having] a better grasp of the jungle than of politics . . . he did not see that ‘modern dictators had no respect even for the law of the pack’” (61). The tragedy is that he comes to better understand this later in life, when it’s too late to change course from past mistakes, which (Reynolds convincingly argues) haunts him to the point of madness. Reynolds’ resume includes a PhD from Oxford University, service as a Marine, a military historian, a CIA officer, and historian for the CIA Museum. So as far as authenticity and credibility go, Reynolds displays a narrative that’s painstakingly researched and thoroughly documented in his attempt to shed light into the depth and breadth of Hemingway’s political ideals and activism. It is a fascinating read! I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts. It makes me feel differently about Hemingway. These recent findings help shed light on Hemingway’s later years. I especially want to read *The Old Man and the Sea*.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hashim Alsughayer

    In my opinion, this is a book about the fall of the famous and iconic American writer. Tackling the later years with a sense from the earlier ones, the book’s focus was not only on Hemingway’s connections to the Soviet Union, but to the writer’s political views through the three major wars that he was involved in. This gave the book a wider reach and a greater goal. Having said that and being a fan of the Lost Generation’s most famous writer, I was saddened to know about his struggles and demons In my opinion, this is a book about the fall of the famous and iconic American writer. Tackling the later years with a sense from the earlier ones, the book’s focus was not only on Hemingway’s connections to the Soviet Union, but to the writer’s political views through the three major wars that he was involved in. This gave the book a wider reach and a greater goal. Having said that and being a fan of the Lost Generation’s most famous writer, I was saddened to know about his struggles and demons. All we knew about his life was the many adventures he had and his amazing wit and talent. But to see him fight depression, a fight that he would eventually lose in the end, gave depth to the sometimes legendary story of Ernest Hemingway. Also, focusing on the writer’s general point of view of certain political events and the relationships he had were welcomed additions to the overall story. A well written book that tells three important periods of Hemingway’s life. Note: I don’t think Hemingway would enjoy this review for the long sentences I chose to write in it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ernie

    Since my friend Michael Mulvey is a busy bee, flipping pages, I felt the onus upon myself to respond with a word here. Though it has not reached the top ten best sellers as of yet, with the stirring controversy over purported "Russian election meddling," and a renewed Cold War it deserves proper attention. What sets it apart from other Hemingway bios, and its main selling point, is the unearthed research which fingers the monolithic American writer and icon as a Russian spy for an agency called Since my friend Michael Mulvey is a busy bee, flipping pages, I felt the onus upon myself to respond with a word here. Though it has not reached the top ten best sellers as of yet, with the stirring controversy over purported "Russian election meddling," and a renewed Cold War it deserves proper attention. What sets it apart from other Hemingway bios, and its main selling point, is the unearthed research which fingers the monolithic American writer and icon as a Russian spy for an agency called the NKVD, the supposed precursor of Putin's own KGB. Unlikely that Donald Trump should seize upon the opportunity to read it and find himself in such great company. Perhaps it should shock no one that Hemingway along with many other influential artists and intellectuals of the 20th century held strong left leaning political views. What is more startling is a theory, given but a cursory glance in the book's final chapter, referenced from another recent biographer, A. E. Hotchner, a friend and fellow writer of Hemingway's towards the end of his life. Here, yet another notion we had been raised with in school is challenged: that of the suicide of the author as a gesture of inscrutable genious, a last gasp final expression, as is the fate of so many tortured artists. Still, we might have been led to believe that the tragic suicide by shot-gun was simply the result of an hereditary Hemingway bipolar gene? Instead Hotchner asserts that FBI snooping and harassment could have been a factor in the author's death, at a time when many careers were being ruined by Hoover's new aggressive agency. Even in the paranoid atmosphere of 1950's McCarthy era Red Scare it would have likely caused more suspicion on the FBI itself to publicly accuse Hemingway of such questionable ties, if it were known, who seemed more than anyone to embody rugged American individualism and freedom. But neither does Reynolds attempt to smear him, as such he must well know, should run a similar risk of landing flat. At least 6 times throughout Reynolds insists that Hemingway was not a communist, but simply an amateur venturing out to try his hand at espionage. Could it be that Reynolds, a CIA man himself, as it clearly reads on the book jacket, is attempting to wrestle with facts so as to bring the FBI and Hemingway upon even ground? While Hemingway's classics stand for themselves, unfortunately so does that of the history of the intelligence agencies, who have of late been scandalized with allegations of torture, waterboarding, and spying through whatever means possible on American citizens, even if most are too focused upon the latest head of the FBI, James Comey's firing, to notice. Hemingway emerges none the worse from this latest look, but whether it offers anything new or was merely created with a view to defend the FBI against Hotchener's account, much of what is revealed is new to me, personally, and may add greater dimension to Hemingway and his work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    You wouldn't think it would be possible to write a boring biography of Hemingway. But here it is. I gave up after a couple of chapters of way too much information about how the NKVD (precursor to KGB) went about recruiting and getting endorsements from famous people. About all I took away from it was that Hemingway was pretty apolitical, enjoyed dangerous situations and wrote some things the NKVD thought might make good propaganda. Oh well. The blurb sounded good and it was on Bookbub's cheap li You wouldn't think it would be possible to write a boring biography of Hemingway. But here it is. I gave up after a couple of chapters of way too much information about how the NKVD (precursor to KGB) went about recruiting and getting endorsements from famous people. About all I took away from it was that Hemingway was pretty apolitical, enjoyed dangerous situations and wrote some things the NKVD thought might make good propaganda. Oh well. The blurb sounded good and it was on Bookbub's cheap list so I only paid a coupe of bucks for it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    An interesting look at Hemingway's career from the Spanish Civil War onwards through the lens of espionage. Papa certainly packed a lot of incident into his life and and his idealism frequently crossed over into political naivete, but he certainly seemed to enjoy himself. However, the author's repeated supposition that Hemingway was a Soviet agent is inferring a lot from very little, and he spends more time ruminating on the remote possibility that his subject's wartime encounters with the NKVD An interesting look at Hemingway's career from the Spanish Civil War onwards through the lens of espionage. Papa certainly packed a lot of incident into his life and and his idealism frequently crossed over into political naivete, but he certainly seemed to enjoy himself. However, the author's repeated supposition that Hemingway was a Soviet agent is inferring a lot from very little, and he spends more time ruminating on the remote possibility that his subject's wartime encounters with the NKVD might have given way to some light treason than the available evidence suggests is appropriate. It seems like a beat up designed to hammer a new hook into the wall from which to hang another Hemingway bio, and for me taints an otherwise thoroughly engrossing book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Vitarius

    A fascinating, well-sourced account of Hemingway's life with a emphasis on the political side. Fans of the author and 20th century history will enjoy exploring the complicated relationship between Hemingway and the global social changes that occurred during his lifetime. His coverage and participation in several conflicts well beyond the Spanish civil war are also detailed and this ends up revealing a facets of Hemingway's personality that in part made him such an interesting figure. A fascinating, well-sourced account of Hemingway's life with a emphasis on the political side. Fans of the author and 20th century history will enjoy exploring the complicated relationship between Hemingway and the global social changes that occurred during his lifetime. His coverage and participation in several conflicts well beyond the Spanish civil war are also detailed and this ends up revealing a facets of Hemingway's personality that in part made him such an interesting figure.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dale Coffman

    Incredibly well researched and compellingly written.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Al Berry

    An okay book dealing with Hemmingway’s later life, prominence dealing with his recruitment to the NKVD and opposition to Batista.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This was a quick, enjoyable read about the more secretive side of one of America's most iconic writers. Unfortunately, the author wrote more about the context in which Hemmingway lived than Hemmingway himself. This is likely due to the lack of verifiable information surrounding Hemmingway's secret thoughts and actions. Despite this limitation, I liked the book and recommend it as a casual glance into the incredible life of one of history's greatest writers. This was a quick, enjoyable read about the more secretive side of one of America's most iconic writers. Unfortunately, the author wrote more about the context in which Hemmingway lived than Hemmingway himself. This is likely due to the lack of verifiable information surrounding Hemmingway's secret thoughts and actions. Despite this limitation, I liked the book and recommend it as a casual glance into the incredible life of one of history's greatest writers.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard Rogers

    Always interesting reading anything by or about Hemingway. I was familiar with some his "secret adventures" in WWII and after but what I found most interesting was learning a little more about his time during the Spanish civil war and the extent of his relationship with Soviet intelligence (NKVD). Always interesting reading anything by or about Hemingway. I was familiar with some his "secret adventures" in WWII and after but what I found most interesting was learning a little more about his time during the Spanish civil war and the extent of his relationship with Soviet intelligence (NKVD).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Darlene Ferland

    This arc, a not yet published work, is an eye-opening look at one of America's Noble Prize winning, much loved, writer, Ernest Heminway's secret life from 1935 until his death in 1961. The author, Nicholas Reynolds, whose background is CIA as well as a military intelligence expert, came across different notes leading him to dig deeper into Hemingway's connection with the precursor to the KGB and the modern CIA. His search led him to delving much deeper into Hemingway's involvement with the polit This arc, a not yet published work, is an eye-opening look at one of America's Noble Prize winning, much loved, writer, Ernest Heminway's secret life from 1935 until his death in 1961. The author, Nicholas Reynolds, whose background is CIA as well as a military intelligence expert, came across different notes leading him to dig deeper into Hemingway's connection with the precursor to the KGB and the modern CIA. His search led him to delving much deeper into Hemingway's involvement with the politics in Spain, Germany and the Soviet Union. First and foremost, Ernest was a writer! He felt deeply about what he was writing whether it was as a novelist or a war correspondent. This book is a year by year, month by month movement of Ernest's anti-Fascism and anti-Nazism actions and his access to many sources. After experiencing battle, loss and deep disappointment, his depression became stronger, which led his wife to seek treatment for him. The treatment caused his memories to become foggy. Electro-Shock may have helped but, for a man who never needed notes, this was a living hell. How could he write without a clear mind. Finally, his loss of the house in Cuba, the finca, might have been the most deeply felt loss before his suicide in 1961. Any reader interested in History, politics, the thought process of Mr. Hemingway and his life in Spain, France and Cuba. This is a fascinating read but not a quick read. . .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Flowergarden24

    I enjoyed this because I was not aware of Hemingway's political views and I now have an interest in reading some of the mentioned books. Perhaps some of this information has already been published but this is the first for me. I thought it was exciting and interesting to read of his exploits. I enjoyed this because I was not aware of Hemingway's political views and I now have an interest in reading some of the mentioned books. Perhaps some of this information has already been published but this is the first for me. I thought it was exciting and interesting to read of his exploits.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Freeman

    In a superbly researched and well-writteneffort, Reynolds illustrates a secret side of the greatest American author (my unabashed favorite). Hemingway was truly an enigmatic and complicated character who embodied the best (and sometimes the worst) aspects of rugged individualism and idealism. Though his alleigances were sometimes troubling, he was, through it all, "never a traitor." In a superbly researched and well-writteneffort, Reynolds illustrates a secret side of the greatest American author (my unabashed favorite). Hemingway was truly an enigmatic and complicated character who embodied the best (and sometimes the worst) aspects of rugged individualism and idealism. Though his alleigances were sometimes troubling, he was, through it all, "never a traitor."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Knutson

    I did not enjoy this book and it was extremely difficult for me to get through as well as boring. I initially started reading because I am a big Hemingway fan and also love spy non-fiction. Spy non-fiction usually has larger than life characters (which Hemingway is) and fantastic plot lines that seem made up (again, some of that in Hemingway’s spy story as well). The book was just not exciting. It started to pick up around pg 75 with the endeavor’s of the Crook Factory and Operation Friendless, b I did not enjoy this book and it was extremely difficult for me to get through as well as boring. I initially started reading because I am a big Hemingway fan and also love spy non-fiction. Spy non-fiction usually has larger than life characters (which Hemingway is) and fantastic plot lines that seem made up (again, some of that in Hemingway’s spy story as well). The book was just not exciting. It started to pick up around pg 75 with the endeavor’s of the Crook Factory and Operation Friendless, but it never really drew me in and engaged me. I think a lot of that how to do with the writing style and also the big hook of this book and main premise was exploring Hemingway’s relationship to the KNVD (precursor to the KGB). I don’t think there was much of a relationship, esp after WWII, and most of the novel is speculative and kind of far reaching. This novel condenses his anti-fascist view points and filters his life from the Spanish-American War through WWII to focus on his wartime spy activities. It's nothing new you wouldn't get if you just read any biography on Hemingway. To get a more exciting and complete story of Hemingway (as well as everything detailed in this novel), read Carlos Baker’s or the Meyers/Griffin bio. Also, for much better spy non-fiction, I recommend reading anything by Ben Macintyre or Neal Bascomb. I wouldn’t really recommend this book to anyone to read.

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