Forget James Bond, Peter Maas' Manhunt shows what a dirty business espionage can be.
Edwin P. Wilson sent more than 40,000 pounds of C-4 explosive, firearms, and ex-Green Berets to Muhammar Qaddafi's regime and establishing a terrorist training school in Libya. Those very same explosives were used to support enemies in attacks aimed at the former colonial powers.
Did the CIA know about it? You bet. At his Virginia estate, Wilson hosted Ted Shackley, a legendary spook, and other budding Iran-Contra figures like Thomas Clines and Maj. Gen. Richard Secord.
Wilson was their patsy. The blurb describes him as the Great Gatsby of the spy world, but he really was a dangerous blowhard who remained outside the reach of U.S. law for years with the help of the fortune he amassed selling arms overseas. A dedicated prosecutor, Larry Barcella, and his team of federal agents finally coaxed him out.
Wilson went to prison arguing that he was working for the CIA all along, and after 20 years, he assembled enough evidence to convince a federal judge that he might be telling the truth. A prosecutor named Ted Greenberg had suborned a perjured CIA affidavit denying that Wilson had anything to do with the agency.
What's amazing about Manhunt, published in 1986, is that this isn't much of a surprise to the reader.
Bottom line: Well-written and extremely well reported, Maas' Manhunt should be on the shelf with other nonfiction spy classics like Wilderness of Mirrors.