THE AMATEUR: Artists & Spies in Cold War Brooklyn released in June by Nathan Ward is the third book by the long-time Brooklyn Heights author and his first distributed in Apple Computer’s iBook format. A non-fiction tale of art and intrigue played out in Brooklyn Heights during the 1950’s, The Amateur reads like a brisk, tightly constructed spy thriller by the master of the genre, John le Carré.
Except The Amateur is all fact, based on the almost unbelievable story of Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher, a high-ranking spy operating in New York City until his capture and celebrated 1957 trial.
With characters and details straight out of 1950’s central casting including Bohemian artists working in spacious studios, an eagle-eyed newsboy, a blundering assistant (Colonel Fisher’s resentful aide, Reino Hayhanen) and a hollow nickel that helps unravel the spy plot, Mr. Ward cleverly interweaves the lives of Brooklyn artists working in the Ovington Studios building with the most paranoid moment in American democracy.
In the wake of the sensational Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial and a global political reality entirely remade by the awesome power of the hydrogen bomb, Mr. Ward presents Emil Goldfus, a genteel, slightly eccentric artist who appears to blend right into the burgeoning New York art scene then spilling over into Brooklyn Heights from downtown Manhattan. Except Goldfus—actually Colonel Fisher—is not what he appears.