Gods of Deception

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Pub Date 17 May 2022 | Archive Date 01 Jun 2022
Greenleaf Book Group, Greenleaf Book Group Press

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Description

At age ninety-five, Judge Edward Dimock, patriarch of his family and the man who defended accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss in the famous 1950 Cold War “trial of the century,” is writing his memoir at his fabled Catskill retreat, Hermitage, with its glorious Italian Renaissance ceiling. Judge Dimock is consumed with doubts about the troubling secrets he’s kept to himself for over fifty years—secrets that might change both American history and the lives of his entire family. Was his client guilty of spying for Stalin or not? And if guilty, did Hiss’s crimes go far beyond his perjury conviction—a verdict that divided the country for a generation?

​Dimock enlists his grandson, George Altmann, a brilliant Princeton astrophysicist, in the quest for truth. Reluctantly, George finds himself drawn into the web of deceit that has ravaged his family, his curiosity sparked by a string of clues found in the Judge’s unpublished memoir and in nine pencil sketches of accused Soviet agents pinned to an old corkboard in his grandfather’s abandoned office. Even more dismaying, the drawings are by George’s paternal grandfather and namesake, a once-famous painter who covered the Hiss trial as a courtroom artist for the Herald Tribune, only to die in uncertain circumstances in a fall from Woodstock’s Fishkill Bridge on Christmas Eve 1949. Many of the suspected spies also died from ambiguous falls (a KGB specialty) or disappeared behind the Iron Curtain—and were conveniently unable to testify in the Hiss trial.

George begins to realize the immensity of what is at stake: deceptive entanglements that will indeed alter the accepted history of the Cold War—and how he understands his own unhappy Woodstock childhood, growing up in the shadow of a rumored suicide and the infidelities of an alcoholic father, a roadie with The Band.

In Gods of Deception, acclaimed novelist David Adams Cleveland has created a multiverse all its own: a thrilling tale of espionage, a family saga, a stirring love story, and a meditation on time and memory, astrophysics and art, taking the reader on an unforgettable journey into the troubled human heart as well as the past—a past that is ever present, where the gods of deception await our distant call.

At age ninety-five, Judge Edward Dimock, patriarch of his family and the man who defended accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss in the famous 1950 Cold War “trial of the century,” is writing his memoir at...


Advance Praise

“In the early days of the Cold War, many Americans simply could not believe that a perfect gentleman like Alger Hiss could be a Red spy. David Adams Cleveland uses his gifts as a storyteller to imagine deeper human truths behind the headlines. Gods of Deception is a lushly vivid tale of a haunted time.”

—Evan Thomas, author of The Very Best Men and Being Nixon

“How are our lives unknowingly motivated by our ancestral past? In its scope, artistry, and depiction of the interlinked cause-and-effect patterns spanning more than a century, Cleveland's (Love's Attraction, 2013) third novel raises the bar for multi-generational epics. At its heart is one man's quest to uncover the truth about his late father, John Alden III, who disappeared behind the Iron Curtain in 1953 for reasons unknown. Peter Alden's recollections begin with his own 1960s youth at the Etonesque Massachusetts prep school cofounded by his abolitionist great-grandfather; a place where his father's reputation as a star athlete, archaeologist, and war hero looms large. The expansive yet tightly controlled narrative, in which numerous mysteries are compellingly unearthed, spins out to encompass post-WWII Greece, the race to decipher the ancient Greek script known as Linear B, the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall's dismantling, and a Civil War battle’s aftermath. The writing is gripping throughout, incorporating both haunting lyricism in its characters' yearning to recapture a lost golden age and a high-stakes tension evoking the best Cold War thrillers. Cleveland is particularly strong in presenting the complicated entanglements of love and betrayal and the barrier between freedom and oppression that each generation contends with. While its length may appear daunting, this unforgettable tour de force is well worth the time.”

—Booklist, Starred Review

“This is a literary page-turner with many philosophical themes running throughout. It is a worthwhile read for anyone who loves to lose themselves in a big book and willing to make the investment in time and effort.”

—Janice Ottersberg, Historical Novel Society

“With this monumental work David Cleveland has achieved nothing less than the disinterment of the various skeletons of the American psyche from the Civil War to Vietnam and beyond, and the painting of a multi-generational portrait of a pedigreed American family whose own skeletons not only refuse to stay buried, but actively haunt its progeny. There will be those who, captivated by the author's brilliant insights into the inner workings of the CIA, KGB and MI6, and by a canvas that stretches from New England to Prague and Greece to Southeast Asia, will describe Time's Betrayal as an international spy novel, which it is, if only in the sense that Moby-Dick is a yarn about a big fish and Huckleberry Finn a tale of a boy on a raft. But this is not Ludlum, folks, nor is it LeCarre. It is in a league of its own and a class by itself. Time's Betrayal is a large-hearted American epic that deserves the widest possible, most discriminating of readerships.”

—Bruce Olds, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author for Raising Holy Hell and The Moments Lost


“In the early days of the Cold War, many Americans simply could not believe that a perfect gentleman like Alger Hiss could be a Red spy. David Adams Cleveland uses his gifts as a storyteller to...


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ISBN 9781626349186
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Featured Reviews

Just take it a page at a time.
That was my counsel to myself as I kept soldiering through David Alan Cleveland's mammoth "Gods of Deception”, in which a near-centenarian judge records his memories of the Alger Hiss trial and the unsettling revelations that came out of it about Soviet penetration of U.S. intelligence. Particularly disconcerting, for instance, is the contention that if the spy apparatus that Hiss allegedly was a part of hadn’t tipped off the Soviets that their military codes had been broken, the Soviets might not have changed their codes and the United States might have been forewarned enough of a military buildup at the 38th parallel that the Korean War might have been prevented.
Indicative enough, just that, of the ambition of a book whose reach extends even to the cosmos, with how the character assisting the judge with his memoir is an astrophysicist with notions of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. But even just on terra firma, the book’s scope is evident, with the astrophysicist’s female partner being a mountain-climber who has scaled the likes of Everest – something I felt at times I’d attempted in taking on so gargantuan a novel. Still, for all its intimidating length – it’s 1,000 pages – it’s fascinating enough in spots that had I not been so just-plain exhausted by book’s end, I might have been inclined to check out the two nonfiction books about the Hiss trial that are made much of in the book, Whittaker Chambers’ "Witness" and Allen Weinstein's "Perjury."
There’s also much to be appreciated in the book's evocation of a time when many on the left were naively embracing Mother Russia before the full horrors of the Stalin era had come to be known. And the parts about the judge's family, for all their to me excessiveness, are also not without interest, particularly with the further personal context they supply to the time of the McCarthy hearings and the Red Scare. A part about the judge's firstborn being killed in Korea is especially poignant, given what the judge comes to know about those Soviet cables.
A magisterial achievement, in short, Cleveland's book, delivered in lyrical if occasionally overwrought prose which together with the book's excessive length make it a challenge to take on even for somebody who really, really likes to read.

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Cleveland has written a wide ranging tale in his usual style. It's a good story. At times there's tension, at times the author is a bit verbose. But the writing is always excellent. This is probably best for serious readers.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!

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