"A haunting book as fast paced and as exciting as the best spy novel . . . and it's all true." Robert Lindsey, author of The Falcon and the Snowman Investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist Bryan Denson tells the riveting story of the Nicholsons father and son co-conspirators who deceived their country by selling national secrets to Russia. Jim Nicholson was one of the CIA's top veteran case officers. By day, he taught spycraft at the CIA's clandestine training center, The Farm. By night, he was a minivan-driving single father racing home to have dinner with his kids. But Nicholson led a double life. For more than two years, he had met covertly with agents of Russia's foreign intelligence service and turned over troves of classified documents. In 1997, Nicholson became the highest ranking CIA officer ever convicted of espionage. But his duplicity didn't stop there. While behind the bars of a federal prison, the former mole systematically groomed the one person he trusted most to serve as his stand-in: his youngest son, Nathan. When asked to smuggle messages out of prison to Russian contacts, Nathan saw an opportunity to be heroic and to make his father proud.
It is always shocking to learn why people who are trained to protect their homeland end up hurting the nation. One such unlikely conspirator, Harold James “Jim” Nicholson, was extremely smart, highly skilled, and greatly respected at the CIA. Yet, Nicholson felt betrayed by the agency when his personal life was about to collapse. In his trademark long-form style, investigative reporter Bryan Denson reveals how Nicholson’s contacts with his Russian counterparts eventually led to the selling of top secrets to Russia’s spy agency for the sum of $300,000.
When the CIA and the FBI brought down the mole at the headquarters and imprisoned the deeply conflicted spy trainer, it all seemed to be over. At least until Nicholson, while still in prison, managed to recruit his son Nathan to pass on more secrets to Moscow.
Bryan Denson is a veteran journalist who specializes in telling hard-to-get stories in long-form narratives. He prefers offbeat tales requiring investigative lock-picking, followed by deep immersion into the lives of his characters to reveal the souls of their stories.
Bryan's 33-year career at five daily newspapers, most recently The Houston Post and The Oregonian, helped uncover scandal in the government’s biggest work program for disabled Americans; pressured the U.S. Air Force to rewrite deadly flight manual instructions for its primary transport plane; and exposed wasteful and duplicative efforts to clone monkeys at a national primate lab. His stories also have laid bare Social Security’s glacial process of awarding disability benefits to those who desperately need them while wasting billions on those who don’t. Bryan’s award-winning series, “The Slaying of a Generation,” chronicled a 300 percent increase in the gunfire deaths of Houston's African-American teens in the early 1990s.
His work has explained how the FBI’s sloth in a multiple-murder investigation inadvertently caused the rape of a teen-age girl. It showed how a small-town police department wrote $1 million in speeding tickets in just six months on a patch of highway outside its jurisdiction. And his series "Death Without Decorum" uncovered horrifying abuses by funeral home operators across the Lone Star State.
Bryan's award-winning narrative “Grave Injustice” explored the global black market for Native American antiquities through the prism of Jack Lee Harelson, the most prolific looter and grave robber in the American West. Harelson’s crimes – including the attempted murder-for-hire of a business partner, two judges, and the cop who brought him to justice – was the subject of a truTV special: “Grave Robber.”
The Spy’s Son takes readers deep into life inside a CIA family, a federal prison, and into the colorful world of spies and spy catchers on four continents. The book was released by The Atlantic Monthly Press on May 5, 2015, and is now for sale in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and soon in Russia and Estonia. Film rights were purchased by Paramount Pictures.
Bryan has been awarded scores of national and regional journalism honors. He is a winner of the George Polk Award, the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award, and was named a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize in national reporting. Denson was a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, a second-place finisher in The Society for Features Journalism for news series and projects, and an honorable mention for the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. The Spy's Son, Bryan's first book, was a finalist for the William E. Colby Award.
He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his 17-year-old son, Holden.
“We always think of the damage a spy does to his country, and to his colleagues and friends, but seldom to his family. This is the solemn and excruciating tale of a real spy who intentionally and selfishly used his son as a go-between himself and his Russian masters after he had been caught and imprisoned, and nearly ruined his son’s life into the bargain. It is a splendid read.”
“Superbly entertaining and informative . . . easily the intelligence book of the year.”
“Engaging . . . a noirish thriller that happens to be true.”