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World Focus: A Spy Story


Robert Landori in his new book, “Whitewash”, devotes a good part of a chapter describing the main character’s training at Camp Peary, the CIA’s main training facility for clandestine agents near Williamsburg.

In this spy thriller, Tom Karas is a contract operative with the National Security Agency.

Is the young Karas a reincarnation of the young Robert Landori, the Canadian writer of Hungarian origin?

Landori, on the back cover of his book states, “This novel is based on a true story. In an interview with the Gazette, however, he proclaimed, “Let’s be clear about ‘Whitewash.’ It’s a novel, not a biography. It’s a thriller, a collection of real events that I’ve incorporated into a story to entertain my readers. I started writing it after writing eight novels, four of which had been published.

Comparing the biographical details of Landori’s life with Karas, as a character of the dramatic events depicted in this book, the reader would find it hard to believe that the two are not identical.

“I became restless as heaps and heaps of unreleased, exciting, confidential information came to me while working as an M&A specialist,” Landori recalls. “To ease my tension, I returned to my unfinished manuscript and resurrected in writing the memories of my youth.”

In the first part of the book, Landori describes his survival in war-torn Hungary during and after World War II. It presents the war from a fish-eye point of view, with a historical perspective.

Landori arrived with his parents in Canada as a refugee from Communist Hungary.

“I was a young man in need of money while at McGill University in Montreal,” he said. “I got a part-time job at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where I was responsible for the accounts of that institution’s Behavior Lab, where the CIA-sponsored mind-bending experiments were taking place.”

It was Dr. Cameron who was conducting the experiments, and Landori had seen the monthly checks arrive in Dr. Cameron’s account through the Bank of Virginia. He assumed it was from the CIA.

It was the introduction of Landori – aka Tom Karas – to the world of espionage.

“As an accountant, while assisting the Security and Intelligence Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I acquired a client who traded rare books by barter with the Mezdunarodniya Kniga in Moscow. An outfit that was later identified as involved in the Gouzenko case, the Soviet spy case,” Landori said.

It turned out that the Landori/Karas bookseller was the payer for a Soviet spy ring, based in Canada. Karas managed to sneak in the professional vault cracker hired by the NSA to open the bookseller’s vault in the basement, where Karas copied all the secret documents. The Soviet spy network was broken.

The bookseller sent Landori/Karas to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. There, he became, as a Canadian citizen, the “king of used tires”. Landori/Karas was arrested, charged with espionage in 1968 and imprisoned. After 66 days in solitary confinement, he was released.

Back in Montreal, Landori became a trustee in bankruptcy in the Cayman Islands. During his eight years of service there, he became an expert in the murky world of offshore banking and secret bank accounts.

“Alejandro Samos, the Panamanian offshore banker in my book, is the creation of my imagination, inspired by my activities in Grand Cayman,” Landori said.

“Whitewash” may be a novel, a fictional page-turner, but there’s no doubt it’s also an NSA playbook. The events described are real.

Disda, the Cuban revolutionary woman – Landori/Karas’ great love – was a real person who fled Cuba for the United States and died of cancer 20 years ago. “The little boy who was beaten by the Brownshirts in Budapest at the start of the book is still alive,” Landori said.

Shatz is a resident of Williamsburg. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place”, the compilation of his selected chronicles. The book is available on Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.