A Book Review Wrapped Inside a Short Story

In my bed, I tossed, turned and listened to an audio book.

My movements ceased at around 4:00 pm, when my iPhone and I rested on the same white downy pillow.

As if two lovers, I dreamed and she continued to whisper into my ears.

I loved the soft sound of my queen’s voice.

My Scheherazade read, “An Impeccable Spy—Richard Sorge Stalin’s Master Agent” by Owen Matthews.

A riveting story, that I had listened to twice before. I thought, “Two listens to the same book pretty, pretty rare. I’ve only done that once before with Philip Roth’s novel ‘Plot Against America.'” You may think that’s not saying much about Matthews’ book, but when you consider that I’ve listened to over 1,600 books—you realize that it says a lot.

Matthews’ flawless book is about a spy/journalist burdened with multiple imperfections. Sorge  was a Communist Soviet agent. He had German heritage, but was born in Russia; he did his critical spywork in Japan. Richard Sorge managed to be one of the greatest spies that ever lived. His life was more thrilling than a Bond novel—which is why more than 100 biographies have been written about him. And yes, the Russians have encapsulated his life on film. (Richard Sorge—Master Spy,  TV series—12 episodes, Amazon Prime.)

In my dream, I asked, “Does the Jewish world owe an indebtedness to this fascinating master spy?”

And then I asked, “Why?”

Well, because Richard Sorge and his espionage team, while based in Japan, helped the Soviet Union defeat the Nazis. They accomplished this amazing feat by learning that the Japanese were not going to attack Western Russia. Sorge conveyed this critical information to Stalin. The Soviet leader then sent a million Soviet troops—with all their equipment—from western Russia to the gates of Moscow. And with the help of those additional troops, the Soviets stopped the Wehrmacht. They stopped the Nazis and eventually they won the war (Of course, with the assistance of the United States, England and their allies.)

Now I played the “What if game.”

What if Sorge’s critical information never made it to Stalin and the USSR lost Moscow and the Nazis occupied all of Russia. Then most likely, the 500,000 European Jews that survived World War II would have been murdered. And another 2 million Jews that survived the war by living in the Soviet Union would have been killed. (I don’t know how many Jews, Stalin murdered. My research has not yielded the numbers. If you my readers have found comprehensive numbers, please let me know.)

I thought, “Yup, that’s an indebtedness of two and a half million people.”

Ring ring, ring ring, ring ring. Damn it! Interrupted REM sleep.

“Don’t answer it. It’s a scam call.”

But I glanced at the number and I saw it was an international call—with a country code of 57.

“Who’s calling me from Columbia?” I wondered.

Now I had to answer the call. So with my eyes half opened, I tapped answer and whispered, “Hello, how can I help you?”

A man’s voice replied, “Hi, my name is David Jutkowitz. I’m calling from Cali, Columbia. You don’t know me but I need your legal assistance. I’m a 83 year-old, American Jew, who spent a good number of years behind bars. I want to sue the federal government, the State of Florida and several judges that adjudicated me guilty. I want to sue them for millions of dollars. We’ll both get rich, if I win.

So for the next six minutes, I patiently listened to David’s well-rehearsed tale.

David paused, took a breath, then started to quiz me as if he were a law professor. “You heard of such-and-such a case, haven’t you?”

But I had not forgotten that this alta cocker woke me up from my deep sleep; it was time to turn the tables.

So my curiosity asked, “Mr. Jutkowitz, how did you get my name and my Florida telephone number?”

“I read your blogs in the Times of Israel. They’re quite entertaining.”

“Well David, you just made my day, my week and maybe my month. Thanks but I gotta tell you the bad news, I’m retired. But not all is lost, there’s some good news. G-d willing, I’ll keep writing my blogs.

David voiced saddened, “Good-bye, Mr. Laitner.”

“Good-bye David and good luck in Cali.”

Then it hit me, like being sideswiped by a silver Aston Martin DB5 Coupe:

Did Richard Sorge, the reporter/spy for a number of German periodicals feel as good as I just did when one of his readers in Japan complimented his stories in the German press?

Will Owen Matthews get the same buzz I just got from David’s call, when he reads my review?

Who knows?

But let me tell you this, that every time I nap with my iPhone resting on my pillow, I now anxiously wait and hope for my phone to ring.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
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