King of Spies
In King of Spies, prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden, reveals one of the most astonishing – and previously untold – spy stories of the twentieth century.
Donald Nichols was 'a one man war', according to his US Air Force commanding general. He won the Distinguished Service Cross, along with a chest full of medals for valor and initiative in the Korean War. His commanders described Nichols as the bravest, most resourceful and effective spymaster of that forgotten war. But there is far more to Donald Nichols' story than first meets the eye . . .
Based on long-classified government records, unsealed court records, and interviews in Korea and the U.S., King of Spies tells the story of the reign of an intelligence commander who lost touch with morality, legality, and even sanity, if military psychiatrists are to be believed. Donald Nichols was America's Kurtz. A seventh-grade dropout, he created his own black-ops empire, commanding a small army of hand-selected spies, deploying his own makeshift navy, and ruling over it as a clandestine king, with absolute power over life and death. He claimed a – 'legal license to murder' – and inhabited a world of mass executions and beheadings, as previously unpublished photographs in the book document.
Finally, after eleven years, the U.S. military decided to end Nichols's reign. He was secretly sacked and forced to endure months of electroshock in a military hospital in Florida. Nichols told relatives the American government was trying to destroy his memory.
King of Spies looks to answer the question of how an uneducated, non-trained, non-experienced man could end up as the number-one US spymaster in South Korea and why his US commanders let him get away with it for so long . . .
In the media
Blaine Harden’s King of Spies is jaw-droppingly good — a quirky, unlikely, thrilling true story of intrigue and daring and depravity told by a master of the genre
David Maraniss, author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
Blaine Harden has now produced a fascinating trilogy of stranger-than-fiction books about North Korea. His latest, King of Spies, is about a gay, middle school dropout who was one of the few U.S. officials to predict the outbreak of the Korean War and whose espionage activities had a profound impact on the course of the war. You’ve probably never heard of Donald Nichols, but you’ll never forget him after reading King of Spies
Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
A must-read for readers interested in Korea, the Korean War, or U.S. intelligence operations
King of Spies is a dark story of espionage and evil by a wild American military spymaster in Korea, a tale both revelatory and tragic. Blaine Harden's superb book throws open a long-ignored chapter in the Korean War; a compelling and disturbing read, not to be missed
David E. Hoffman, author of The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal