Flirting with Danger: The Mysterious Life of Marguerite Harrison, Socialite Spy (Hardcover)
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A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR'S CHOICE
"A compelling story that pulsates with the energy of a thriller"—The Wall Street Journal
"Suspense, élan and a generous helping of glamour: Think George Smiley in a mink-trimmed coat."—The New York Times Book Review
The true story of socialite Marguerite Harrison, who spied for U.S. military intelligence in Russia and Germany in the fraught period between the world wars
Born a privileged child of America’s Gilded Age, Marguerite Harrison rebelled against her mother’s ambitions, married the man she loved, was widowed at thirty-seven, and set off on a life of adventure. Hired as a society reporter, when America entered World War I she applied to Military Intelligence to work as a spy.
She arrived in Berlin immediately after the Armistice and befriended the enemy, dining with aristocrats and dancing with socialists. Late into the night she wrote prescient reports on the growing power of the German right. Sent to Moscow, she sneaked into Russia to observe the results of the Bolshevik Revolution. Although she carried press credentials she was caught and imprisoned as an American spy. Terrified when told her only way out was to spy for the Cheka, she became a double agent, aiming to convince the Russian rulers she was working for them while striving to stay loyal to her country.
In Germany and Russia, Harrison saw the future—a second war with Germany, a cold war with the Soviets—but her reports were ignored by many back home. Over a decade, Harrison’s mysterious adventures took her to Europe, Baghdad, and the Far East, as a socialite, secret agent, and documentary filmmaker. Janet Wallach captures Harrison’s daring and glamour in this stranger-than-fiction history of a woman drawn to the impossible.
About the Author
JANET WALLACH is the author of ten books, including Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, which has been translated into twelve languages and was a New York Times Notable Book.
"A compelling story that pulsates with the energy of a thriller"
—The Wall Street Journal
"Suspense, élan and a generous helping of glamour: Think George Smiley in a mink-trimmed coat."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Janet Wallach delivers an enthusiastic portrait of a Baltimore socialite who defied expectations."
—The Washington Post
"Wallach’s in-depth portrayal of Harrison’s complex personality deftly reveals the socialite spy’s intrepid character through a masterly-crafted narrative and detailed anecdotes."
—Historical Novels Review
"A remarkable tale of intrigue and daring."
"Wallach's expert storytelling, which has the suspense and pacing of a good spy novel, is clearly her own, and it makes for engaging reading."
"It was a life well-lived. Baltimore socialite, journalist, author, intrepid explorer, and filmmaker—and a spy for American military intelligence, Marguerite Harrison broke all the rules for a young woman in the early 20th century. Biographer Janet Wallach has brilliantly rediscovered this fabulous life and spins a colorful tale of a smart, beautiful young woman who was too bored to stay at home. Instead, she runs off to revolutionary Russia, interviews Leon Trotsky in Moscow, befriends John Reed and considers Emma Goldman "a sympathetic soul." Twice imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, Harrison manages to survive for more wild adventures in the Middle East, the Far East and Mongolia. Wallach’s heroine is a feisty feminist—but her espionage, working under the cover of a journalist, underscores the lost art of human intelligence collection in the modern spy business."
—Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography
"Janet Wallach weaves together the almost unbelievable adventures of a fearless American socialite, Marguerite Harrison, who operated as a spy, reporting to military intelligence during the precarious years between the two World Wars. Scrupulously researched but reading like a page-turning novel, the aptly titled Flirting with Danger takes us from the debutante balls in Baltimore to Harrison’s dangerous exploits in Baghdad, the far East and Moscow, where she is incarcerated in the notorious Lybyanka prison before being released to whatever is next."
—Eden Collinsworth, author of What the Ermine Saw: The Extraordinary Journey of Leonardo da Vinci’s Most Mysterious Portrait