The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage

The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage

by Robert Lindsey


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This fascinating account of how two young Americans turned traitor during the Cold War is an “absolutely smashing real-life spy story” (The New York Times Book Review).

At the height of the Cold War, some of the nation’s most precious secrets passed through a CIA contractor in Southern California. Only a handful of employees were cleared to handle the intelligence that came through the Black Vault. One of them was Christopher John Boyce, a hard-partying genius with a sky-high IQ, a passion for falconry, and little love for his country. Security at the Vault was so lax, Boyce couldn’t help but be tempted. And when he gave in, the fate of the free world would hang in the balance.
With the help of his best friend, Andrew Daulton Lee, a drug dealer with connections south of the border, Boyce began stealing classified documents and selling them to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City. It was an audacious act of treason, committed by two spoiled young men who were nearly always drunk, stoned, or both—and were about to find themselves caught in the middle of a fight between the CIA and the KGB.
This Edgar Award–winning book was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn—a true story as thrilling as any dreamed up by Ian Fleming or John le Carré. Before Edward Snowden, there were Boyce and Lee, two of the most unlikely spies in the history of the Cold War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504049368
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 359
Sales rank: 234,669
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Robert Lindsey (b. 1935) is a journalist and the author of several award-winning true crime books. He won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime for The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage, which the New York Times called “one of the best nonfiction spy stories ever to appear in this country.”

Read an Excerpt

The Falcon and the Snowman

A True Story of Friendship and Espionage

By Robert Lindsey


Copyright © 1979 Robert Lindsey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3835-5


A halo of smog hung over Mexico City on the morning of January 6, 1977, obscuring the mountains beyond the city with a brown membrane of moist soot. Christmas decorations, remnants of Posada, the city's most festive celebration, still clung to many of the buildings on the Paseo de la Reforma, the broad boulevard that sweeps proudly from the Old City to Chapultepec Park, a Latin American Champs-Elysées.

It was the Day of the Three Kings, and, as was the tradition, children throughout the capital of Mexico were opening their Christmas packages. Under an elm tree along Reforma, an organ-grinder cranked out the repetitious strains of a Strauss waltz, entertaining tourists beside the statue of Cuahutemoc, the last of the Aztec emperors, while his assistant, a small boy, scurried about, cap outstretched, soliciting coins.

Behind the glittering window walls of the office towers that loomed over the tree-lined boulevard, secretaries were beginning to grow anxious, restless for their two-hour midday siesta to begin. At the National Pawnshop, Monte de Piedad — the Mountain of Pity — people stood waiting their turn, holding musical instruments and cartons containing anonymous family treasures.

A taxi, one of the salmon-colored sedans that loiter outside the big downtown hotels which cater to foreign tourists, threaded its way through the clotted queues of cars, trucks and buses on Reforma. Just as it was about to be swallowed up in the whirlpool of traffic swirling around the entrance to the park, the passenger in the back seat of the cab leaned forward and told the driver to stop. He was a small, chunky man. So small, in fact, that when he got out of the taxi someone seeing him from behind might have guessed that he was a grade-school pupil on his way home to one of the grand houses concealed behind high walls on the side streets in the neighborhood. But when he turned around, a stranger, expecting to see a child, would have seen a moustache and the weathered complexion of a man who four days earlier had turned twenty-five and who, indeed, looked older than that. Although he was short, he had broad shoulders and a thick torso that seemed out of proportion to the rest of his body; brown hair flopped over his forehead and curled around his ears, landing half an inch above the collar of a brown sport coat; above his bushy moustache there were turquoise eyes that seemed at once too large and more moist than they should have been.

He walked three blocks to Calzada de Tacubaya, a wide expressway now almost hopelessly congealed with late-morning traffic, and turned toward a three-story white building. It was a big, brooding fortress of a place half hidden behind trees with a forest of radio antennae bristling from the roof and a plaque on an outer wall that read:


It was the Soviet Embassy. He walked along the sidewalk in front of the wall and then paused; through a row of iron bars, he studied a small guardhouse set back from the street for several moments. Then he scanned the upper floors of the main building. For a moment he thought he saw a curtain jiggle at one window and the face of a man looking at him; but the face vanished suddenly. After a full minute, he started walking again. But before he took more than a few steps, he saw a limousine slowing to enter the compound and he rushed to intercept it. But the car didn't stop and it quickly disappeared behind a wall. He lit a cigarette, looked around and casually lobbed a ball of paper through the iron bars.

Before he could walk thirty paces, a Mexican policeman ran up and ordered him to halt. He protested that he was a tourist from California who had gotten lost while seeing the sights of Mexico City. But two hours later he was under arrest at the Metropolitan Police Headquarters of Mexico City, accused of murder.

As he waited to be questioned, he could recall his first visit to the Embassy. It had been simple then: He had presented himself to the clerk at the reception desk in the guardhouse, thrown down the computer programming cards and said, "I have a friend with socialist leanings who would like you to have some information." The clerk shook his head and said he didn't speak English and left to get someone who did.

He had sat in the stark lobby of the building, his feet barely reaching the floor, looking up at a portrait of Lenin on the wall. When he was sure no one was watching him, he raised the Minolta that he had hung around his neck to look like a tourist and snapped a picture. Who knows? he thought. Someone might be willing to pay for a photograph of the inside of the Russian embassy.

Twenty minutes later he met Okana.

Vasily Ivanovich Okana was listed with Mexican authorities as a vice consul of the Soviet foreign service. He was in fact a member of the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB. At that first meeting, the American had not been much impressed physically by the slender man in the poorly fitting black suit. Later he had learned that beneath the baggy suit was the muscled physique of a fitness fanatic.

"These are interesting," the thirty-eight-year-old KGB agent had said in English as his fingers played with the computer cards. "But what are they?"

He was only a courier, he replied, but it was his understanding that they had something to do with what people called "spy satellites."


The Palos Verdes Peninsula is in Southern California. From the air it looks like the jagged prow of a huge ship trying to escape from the rest of North America. It rises like a rocky, slab-sided Gibraltar at the southern entrance to Santa Monica Bay and at sunset glows with soft shades of orange reflected by thousands of Mediterranean tile roofs. Nine miles long and four miles wide, the mountainous Peninsula lifts up and away from the table-flat Los Angeles basin, establishing physical and social isolation from the freeway culture of that city. The isolation was created eons ago by geological forces and by centuries of sedimentation, erosion and waves that sculpted a land of scalloped coves, terraced cliffs and rocky headlands above lonely beaches strewn with pebbles and driftwood.

For centuries its remoteness resisted efforts to populate the Peninsula. It was like a vast feudal grazing land, producing hides, tallow, beef and, later, vegetables tended by immigrant tenant farmers from Japan. But after World War II, when Los Angeles was becoming the prototype of modern urban sprawl, more and more people who had emigrated to that city became disenchanted with its version of the California Dream, and many began to colonize The Hill, as its inhabitants came to refer to their refuge from the sprawl. As time went on, the Palos Verdes Peninsula became a prestigious address, and as it did, many colonizers of The Hill began to look down, in more than one way, on the people who lived below on the flatlands of the basin.

The immigrants to The Hill were, for the most part, college-educated people from out of state who had come to California with little more than their brains and their ambition. And they had found success that allowed them to afford a place on The Hill. They were achievers who accumulated money, most of them, not through inheritance or bloodlines but through their own talents, drive and ambition. Many prospered in the aerospace industry at companies like North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft, Hughes Aircraft, TRW Systems and other firms that built airplanes, missiles, space satellites and electronic gadgetry down on the flatlands. In the years after the war, aerospace ballooned into a prosperous industry as specialized and concentrated as Detroit's, and Palos Verdes became its Bloomfield Hills.

Others came to The Hill after making a bundle as lawyers, doctors or businessmen. The common denominator of the colonizers was success. Palos Verdes didn't have any industry of its own. But a fortune could be made there in real estate; building lots that sold for $1,000 in the fifties were commanding $10,000 in the early sixties and almost $100,000 by the middle seventies, when even a modest home on The Hill cost $150,000 and $300,000 did not buy an opulent one. The earliest real estate promoters had tried to entice flatlanders to The Hill by merchandising it as a kind of transplanted Côte d'Azur. Homes visible from the sea, they decreed, had to have Old World red tile roofs, and even the names they gave to the neighborhoods on The Hill sounded like a Mediterranean melody — Malaga Cove, Portuguese Bend, Lunada Bay, Montemalaga and Abalone Cove. The rule about the red tile roofs was relaxed in later years, but on some days, when the sky was especially clear and the ocean especially blue, it was not difficult for the inhabitants of The Hill to imagine that they were gazing out on their own Riviera and their own Capri, the rocky island of Catalina anchored twenty-one miles offshore.

Andrew Daulton Lee was born in 1952; Christopher John Boyce, a year later. Their parents were among the first wave of people who settled the Peninsula in the fifties and early sixties. The Lees bought a rambling ranch house with a putting green in the backyard on Lunada Bay, across the street from the Pacific Ocean. The Boyces were not quite as prosperous and bought a home in a pleasant but slightly less prestigious neighborhood farther from the sea.

The two families were among the charter parishioners of the new Catholic church, St. John Fisher, that was built in 1961 to serve the growing Peninsula population. Boyce and Lee were among the first students at the parochial school that was built next to the church, and they were among the first altar boys to serve Mass there.

There is nothing in their school records, or in the memories of their friends or teachers, to indicate that they were anything but two devout Catholic boys growing up in happy, warm families in one of the most affluent suburbs in America, living one version of the American Dream and facing nothing but the brightest of futures.


Dr. Daulton Bradley Lee had grown up a long way from The Hill in a small farm town in Illinois where his father was the local dentist. It was not a poor family, but during the Depression it was not a wealthy one either. As long as anyone could remember, he had been regarded as a young man driven by high ambition — an ambition, he later said, that he had inherited from his father.

After graduating from high school, he left the farm town to attend a small college in Eureka, Illinois. But World War II intervened, and a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, his National Guard unit was mobilized. He was sent to an infantry training base in Tennessee, where he applied for a transfer to the Army Air Corps, hoping to become a combat pilot. He scored high marks on the screening test and immediately was accepted for flight school. After preliminary flight training in Alabama, he was ordered to Davis-Monthan Air Base, which had been hurriedly bulldozed out of sand and sagebrush near Tucson, Arizona.

Second Lieutenant Daulton Bradley Lee was a handsome man who had brown curly hair, stood more than six feet tall and had a style about him that made his leather flight jacket and trailing silk scarf look as if they had been designed expressly for him. He had not been at Davis-Monthan long before he met a coed at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

It was a fast wartime romance. After dating for four months, he married Anne Clark in November, 1942, before the altar of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tucson. The following August, he was on his way to Europe.

Anne Lee had been born in Montana but had moved with her mother and father — a physician who specialized in heart disease — to Long Beach, near Los Angeles, as an infant, and she considered herself a native Californian. A beauty who would keep her good looks long after she had lost her youth and her hair had turned prematurely gray, she had enrolled at the university with plans to become a teacher. But after her husband went overseas, she dropped out of college and moved back to her parents' home in Long Beach, where a daughter was born the next year.

Her husband, meanwhile, was distinguishing himself in the air: flying B-24 bombers over Italy, Daulton Lee had become a lieutenant colonel by the time he was twenty-three, and when the war was over, he came home with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Croix de Guerre with palm — and his old ambition. Before the war he had thought about becoming a doctor, and encouraged by his father-in-law, he enrolled in the Medical School at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he got high marks, and then decided to specialize in pathology.

While he was still in medical school, though, the couple experienced a major disappointment: Mrs. Lee learned she could not have any more children. They wanted a son, and in 1952 they heard through friends that an infant boy might be available for adoption. In those days, before the pill and other advances in birth control, it was easier to adopt a child than it would become in the future. That winter they brought home their second child and named him Andrew Daulton. (As the years went on he preferred to be called Daulton, after his father.)

Not much was known of the child's natural parents except that they were of Polish and Lithuanian ancestry and were blue-collar workers. "They were educated people in technical fields; they had an electronics type of education," Anne Lee, his adoptive mother, would recall later. Although his natural parents had been married, theirs had been a stormy marriage, and they had gone to the divorce courts before his conception to obtain an interlocutory divorce decree. Under California law at the time, a year's waiting time was necessary before an interlocutory decree could become final, and if the couple engaged in sexual relations during that year the decree became invalid. It was during this twelve-month waiting period that Andrew Daulton Lee was conceived. Still determined to dissolve their marriage, his parents decided not to reveal his conception to the court, and he was placed for adoption.

When Daulton was two years old, Mrs. Lee procured a booklet that had been written to help adoptive parents explain the circumstances of their children's birth. She settled Daulton onto her lap and told him how she and his father had yearned for a child, and when at last they had seen Daulton they had loved him and selected him over all other children. And, she recalled later, he had seemed to accept the fact of his adoption as easily as if she had been teaching him how to tie his shoes. Eventually, the Lees decided they wanted more children, and in 1954 they adopted another sister for him, Mary Anne, and in 1958, a brother, David. Meanwhile, as the family grew, Dr. Lee was becoming increasingly successful — and prosperous — in his field.

Along with other pupils at St. John Fisher, Daulton was indoctrinated in a brand of Roman Catholicism somewhat harsher than that which would prevail a few years later following the winds of liberalization that blew from Rome during and after the tenure of Pope John XXIII. His was a religious training rooted in a doctrine that to commit a mortal sin meant risking eternal damnation in the fires of hell. But he accepted it and was a regular communicant at St. John Fisher.

Daulton learned other lessons at home. His father, whose childhood had not been materially bountiful, assured Daulton that he was determined to give his own children some of the things that he had missed; and indeed, whether it was toys, clothing or travel, Daulton enjoyed a childhood of abundance, financed by the growing wealth of his father. When he was eleven, his parents sent him to Southern California's most exclusive summer camp — Gold Arrow Camp, in the High Sierra mountains, where his camp-mates included the sons of comedian Jerry Lewis; Otis Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and other prominent and wealthy people. By David Strick, the son of movie director Joseph Strick, who shared Daulton's cabin, he was remembered as a tough competitor, generous and likable, but troubled by his size — "A Mickey Rooney character," he called him. "He was a plucky guy who sort of walked with a swagger, I think, because he was conscious of his shortness. When we had a water fight, he stayed in it until the end and never wanted to give up. When his parents sent him a box of candy," Strick recalled, "he walked around and gave some to everybody before he ate any; he loved to give gifts; everybody else who got something from home hoarded it."

Daulton was an unspectacular student at St. John Fisher, but he discovered in grade school that he had a talent most of his classmates didn't have: he could make things with his hands better than almost anyone else. With a hammer and saw and modest materials, he could fashion a tree house, a go-kart or other toys that became the envy of his friends.


Excerpted from The Falcon and the Snowman by Robert Lindsey. Copyright © 1979 Robert Lindsey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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