Many don’t know this, I certainly didn’t before reading Larry Loftis’ new book, but James Bond–the character created and made famous by Ian Fleming–is based on a real person. Dusko Popov is the real 007 (though he was never given that code name), and the true story of his life and career as a double agent is far more compelling than anything Fleming, or anyone else for that matter, could ever dream up.
I don’t read many biographies, which I freely admit, because most of the time I find fiction to be far more entertaining than real life. A friend of mine, who was in the military and is now a police officer, often tells me how boring those jobs are in real life compared to when they are fictionalized for entertainment. “It’s not like it is in the movies,” he tells me–and this is coming from a guy who works on a full-time SWAT team.
A few weeks ago I got an advance copy of Loftis’ book and didn’t know what to think, so I started it without any expectations and was completely and utterly blown away. Into The Lion’s Mouth is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read, period. Larry Loftis wrote a thriller novel–which just so happens to be a completely true and accurate depiction of the life of Dusko Popov.
If you love historical fiction, thrillers, or spy novels, Into The Lion’s Mouth is one of the true must-read books of the summer.
“He (Popov) had steel within, the ruthlessness and the cold-blooded courage that enabled him to go back to the German Secret Service Headquarters in Lisbon and Madrid time and time again, when it was likely that he was blown; it was like putting his head into the lion’s moth.”
Larry Loftis opens his book with this chilling quote from Lieutenant-Commander Ewen Montagu, who served on the British Double-Cross Committee. It perfectly sums up the kind of nerves Popov had, allowing him to live a life of double-crossing without so much as batting an eye–and kill without a conscience.
Within a few sentences of the preface, Loftis makes it clear that his book is different than any biography you’ve ever read. His writing style, pacing, and structure make Into The Lion’s Mouth feel like a Vince Flynn or Daniel Silva novel. That is, until you realize the story unfolding is actually true, which takes this incredible tale to the next level for readers. It’s unreal how thrilling this real story is!
Early on, we learn that Dusan “Dusko” Miladoroff Popov, born in 1912, was the second of three sons, and grandson to a wealthy banker and industrialist. Without question, it’s easy to see where Fleming took inspiration from Dusko, who was handsome, a fast talker, charismatic, charming, a womanizer, and well educated with expensive taste. Those are the Bond-like qualities that made him successful in fooling and deceiving everyone around him, and why he’s such an interesting man to study and read about.
Dusko was a natural when it came to embodying the traits that make a spy successful. That’s another area that Loftis talks about, the difference between a soldier–who serves with patriotism and courage–versus a spy, who operates in the shadows and thrives on spewing deceit and lies.
Soldiers serve with bravery, often channeling their love for country in regard to their service. Spies, on the other hand (at least back then), operated much like criminals, but with a cause and a purpose.
The problem is that sometimes a spy’s cause and purpose had nothing to do with his country, but with other motives–which can be bought or manipulated. Such was the case for Popov, who pretended to give German officials sensitive British military information, while in reality he was working as a double agent for Britain’s MI6 during World War II.
During his career, Popov was vital to the success of D-Day, and was nearly successful in tipping off the FBI about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Loftis covers all of it in gripping fashion.
The magic of Loftis’ writing is in the way he tells the story. He doesn’t just tell you where Popov was first confronted by his German controller, he paints a scene and then drops you smack dab in the middle of it. The tension is palpable, and I found myself genuinely nervous at times while reading along.
If nothing else, I learned very quickly that I most definitely do not have what it takes to be a spy or a double agent. Heck, my heart was pumping hard enough waiting for Popov to be discovered that it doesn’t seem possible to me that any man could actually live his life under such stress and uncertainty. Yet it happens, and Popov did it with flair and expertise for several years like it was nothing.
Why I loved it
Larry Loftis hit the ball out of the park with this book. The story of Popov’s life is already incredible, but some people have the natural ability to make things more interesting with their delivery–and Loftis is one of them. Never before has the nonfiction account of someone gripped me the way Into The Lion’s Mouth did.
Why you should read it
If you love spy novels and political thrillers, then you’ve got to read this book! Popov is real, and his story is as much fun to read about as any adventure following Mitch Rapp, Gabriel Allon or Cotton Malone.
I actually finished this book a couple weeks ago, but waited to write the review until I compared Into The Lion’s Mouth to another biography written about Dusko Popov. In the end, there is no comparison–Larry Loftis smokes the competition.
Author: Larry Loftis
Pages: 420 (Hardcover, including images of Popov and historical evidence)
Release Date: June 14, 2016 (Pre-order now!)