Double Agent

The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring

LIST PRICE $12.99

About The Book

The never-before-told tale of the German-American who infiltrated New York’s Nazi underground in the days leading up to World War II: “Thrilling, well-researched, well-told, fascinating” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

He was the first hero of World War II and yet the American public has never seen his face. William G. Sebold, a naturalized American of German birth, risked his life to become the first double agent in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He spent sixteen months in the Nazi underground of New York City, consorting with a colorful cast of spies. Sebold was at the center of the most sophisticated investigation yet devised by the FBI, which established a short-wave radio station on Long Island to communicate with Hamburg spymasters and set up a “research office” in Times Square that allowed agents hidden behind a two-way mirror to film meetings conducted between Sebold and the spy suspects.

The result was the arrest and conviction of thirty-three spies, still the largest espionage case in American history. The guilty verdicts were announced in Brooklyn federal court just hours after Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, which meant that the Führer could not call upon a small army of embedded spies and saboteurs during the most trying days of the coming struggle. “As you know,” an FBI official later told J. Edgar Hoover, “Sebold gave us the most outstanding case in Bureau history.”

In Double Agent, Peter Duffy tells this full account. Here is a story “rich with eccentric characters, suspense, and details of spycraft in the war’s early days….The result is a compelling cultural history with all the intricacy and intrigue of a good spy novel” (The Boston Globe).

About The Author

Photography by Ran Graff

Peter Duffy is the author of Double AgentThe Bielski Brothers, and The Killing of Major Denis Mahon. He also works as a freelance journalist and writes regularly for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, The New Republic, Slate, and many other outlets. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. Visit his website at PeterDuffy.net.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (July 22, 2014)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451667974

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Raves and Reviews

“Intriguing account of the unraveling of the German intelligence network in the U.S.... thrilling.”

– Wall Street Journal

“Peter Duffy absorbingly recounts the true story of William G. Sebold… right on target.”

– The New York Times

“Rich with eccentric characters, suspense, and details of spycraft in the war’s early days…. The result is a compelling cultural history with all the intricacy and intrigue of a good spy novel.”

– Boston Globe

“Thrilling, well-researched, well-told, fascinating.”

– Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Peter Duffy brings out of the cold — well, out of the shadows — a spy who is not only a hero like Bond, but also a man who was never there... Duffy allows the reader not only into the innermost workings of the investigation, but also to connect with the protagonist Sebold and see the aftermath in a truly human hero."

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Double Agent is worth reading."

– Washington Post

"The intrigues of Sebold and his minders, vividly depicted by Peter Duffy, read at times like a John le Carré novel. There is a gray, dank sense of boredom in a spy's daily existence, along with a frisson of reckless endangerment, both of which Duffy conveys through a plethora of historical detail."

– Bookreporter.com

"Immensely readable... Colorful personalities proliferate throughout the narrative, the understated character of Sebold gleams. An entertaining work duly informed by Duffy’s knowledge of both the war and New York City."

– Kirkus

"One of the great spy missions of American history."

– Publishers Weekly

"Duffy tracks Sebold’s efforts with a tense, exciting narrative filled with a motley collection of characters, some sinister and some unlikely as villains. This has all the elements of a fine spy novel, with the bonus that it is all true."

– Booklist

"Peter Duffy’s Double Agent exposes the shocking extent of German espionage in America on the eve of World War II with dazzling new research and deft historical insight. A riveting non-fiction thriller that exposes history’s neglect of William Sebold, an unjustly forgotten American hero. Duffy offers still relevant insights into the boundaries of civilian surveillance and FDR’s and J. Edgar Hoover’s handling of intelligence information to influence public opinion."

– Jerrold L. Schecter, Cold War historian and coauthor of The Spy Who Saved the World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War

"Duffy tracks Sebold’s efforts with a tense, exciting narrative filled with a motley collection of characters, some sinister and some unlikely as villains. This has all the elements of a fine spy novel, with the bonus that it is all true."

– Booklist

"One of the great spy missions of American history."

– Publishers Weekly

"Double Agent is an important and impressively researched account of a still little-known man who made a big difference in the world of counterintelligence. Duffy reveals new information, much of it from thousands of pages of FBI documents... Both timely and significant."

– Dan's Papers, (Hamptons)

"The grip of good fiction and the punch of hard truth."

– Chicago Tribune

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