Two Years On and Going Strong

Boyce Daulton Lee Falcon Snowman Together

Written by Vince Font

Today marks the second anniversary of the publication of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. In that time, the book has received the kind of press most self-published authors only dream of, including international TV and radio coverage from the likes of CNN and the BBC.

Perhaps most importantly, the book continues to resonate with readers who see the book as far more than just a chronicling of contemporary historical events, but an inspiring tale of survival and recovery.

With that in mind, we figure there’s no better way to celebrate the book’s second birthday than to share some of the stunning feedback we’ve received from the people whose opinions matter most: the readers themselves. Here’s just some of what people have said about American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.

“A brilliant finale to the Christopher Boyce saga.”

“A beautifully written account of the rare and hopeful bond that can manifest in even the darkest, most desperate of places.”

“Compelling and brutally honest. Read it if you dare.”

“A gritty true tale of survival and courage.”

“A modern-day Papillon screaming to be made into a motion picture.”

“The stories were exciting, suspenseful, and Chris Boyce’s experiences were so powerful you felt like you were walking with him every step of the way.”

“If ever there was a tale of love conquering all, this is it.”

“A heart so loud, so clear, that you could reach out and touch it.”

“From the first paragraph to the last, this is a riveting page-turner.”

“A devastatingly beautiful, inspirational, and soulful story of vulnerable spirits and hope.”

“The best read I’ve had in years!”

“A jaw-dropping story, so beautifully written I had to read it twice to savor some of the best passages.”

“It gives insight and emotion, agony, heartbreak, triumph and resolution.”

“An emotional roller coaster from the first page to the last.”

“A story of courage, crime, law and justice, told as a thriller – and true.”

“When a book has the ability to inspire you to think or act differently, you could consider it a masterpiece. Its impact is nothing short of enlightening.”

A heartfelt thanks from the three of us – Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and myself – for the continued support. It has been an exhilarating journey so far, and we’re honored to have you all along for the ride.

Spring Dreams


Seasonal Survival Tips from Maximum Security

The following article was written by Christopher Boyce while he was serving a 68-year sentence at Oak Park Heights prison. It was published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on April 9, 1989.

Written by Christopher John Boyce

I am often asked how I can face 68 years of imprisonment. On a recent morning I sat in the prison library and pondered the same question.

In my despair I glanced out the windows at a blustery April sky and saw a great, straggling vee of Canada geese flying north. The sealed security windows muffled all sound, but my imagination produced a wild music of honking that faded with them as they neared the horizon.

There was my answer. For a little while, as the flock hurried over the razor wire, my soul became one with the vitality of nature. With the geese went a part of me.

Spring is a bittersweet season in prison. This, my 37th spring, at once both heals and tortures me. Its arrival is the inspiration for my survival, but my inability to participate in all the rites of spring is a privation that becomes more painful with each passing year.

I must snatch bits and pieces of nature’s moods where I can find them. As I become older in prison, time is passing faster and faster. But even as I do this time, I uneasily realize that time is doing me.

When I was young and not yet prison-bound, spring came singing on the tongues of meadowlarks. But when I finally woke up from my folly and found myself in federal custody, nature seemed reduced to cockroaches, ants and flies. And so, to breathe in life once again, I replaced reality with “spring dreams.”

Alone on my bunk in my cell, surrounded by the squalor of the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc, Calif., I would will my spirit away to the mystical outlands of my youth. I developed a personal kind of religion.

My mind’s eye would return again and again to the pristine perfection of the first spring I spent on the Sea of Cortes.

It had been no easy journey, and in my memory I would savor every mangled mile down the arid Baja coast. Our party, rushing south, had hoped at the summit of every new headland to glimpse Isla San Luis, the whispered haunt of peregrine falcons.

And one morning we found the island jutting out of the blue-glass sea. Below us, from the beach, Seri Indians worked an oyster bed and dove for sponges.

For a pittance and the gasoline we siphoned out of our tanks to fuel their one, wheezy outboard motor, the Indians had consented to run us out to Isla San Luis in their longboat. First we breakfasted on pan-fried seabass and Mexicali beer. On the way we passed through a pod of barnacled gray whales, breaching amid the fountains of their own water spouts. The sky was alive with the screams of countless seabirds. We were touched alternately by the warm rays of the sun and the cool sprays of the gulf.

We put in at a little cove where the beach was a white carpet of fuzzy pelican chicks. The whole shore was alive with their ungainly squawking. Sea lions and their pups barked from the rocks. God had made it all and it was good. So good.

I looked to the top of the precipice above us and saw the flash of a falcon’s wings slice across the cliff face. Peregrines ruled here in all their glory.

Alone in my cell I had reached the zenith of my spring dream. It was mine alone, and no bureaucrat could take it from me.

But memories like this, when there is nothing else, can also poison a prisoner in a mind-lock of stultification. These dreams must be rationed out during times of desperate need, or the cords that bind a man’s mind to reality are cut loose. It is a very fine line, and I have walked it.

To save themselves, some prisoners escape. I have gone down that lonely, tough road. Many sink themselves into the dreary world of prison politics, drugs, hierarchy and violence. They collapse in upon themselves in a psychosis of loathing and malice. Some never even go outside to the prison yard. Theirs is a seasonless world of clammy corridors, closed cells and slamming metal doors. Some become obese; others dry up like old pumpkins.

A good number turn, sincerely or insincerely, to religion in all its forms, while others find their inner peace through the exertion of physical exercise. The artist, poets and craftsmen among us seek refuge in creativity. Many convicts just vegetate and flounder, but an inspired minority soak up knowledge in educational and job-skills programs. Often they concentrate themselves to a degree they never would have achieved were they still free.

Some become so addicted to television that they resemble zombies. The schemers among the soon-to-be-paroled plan new crimes; most soon return. Some come to like prison and are happy in their “home.” But most cling to the remnants of their steadily deteriorating former lives, inwardly groaning as their wives and girlfriends fade away. A fortunate few maintain healthy attachments to family and community, and by directing all their energy beyond prison sometimes preserve their social worth.

Oscar Wilde, the snide English writer who died at the turn of the century, reached out and sobered me when I first found myself in prison. He had written:

The vilest deeds like poison weeds

Bloom well in prison air:

It is only what is good in man

That wastes and withers there…

I shuddered when I read those words. But in the spring I suspect he was wrong.

I look around me and there is a dripping, slippery moisture cleansing everything, everywhere. Overhead, flocks of migrating mallards and teal bless me with their quacking. Dormant grass appears hopefully from under dirty snows in every-widening patches while crows speculate in the sun. Somewhere, underneath it all, the prison’s resident 13-striped ground squirrels still hibernate, oblivious to my spring madness.

I do not know Minnesota; I only glimpse it beyond the prison walls. To the north the red oaks and jack pines are often cloaked in the wet fog that rolls up from the St. Croix River. If I squint I can almost convince myself that I see tiny, yellow flowers on the birch tress up on the hill. Somehow I sense that if I can do so I will have found a way to survive this monster of 68 years’ imprisonment.

I am savoring this fresh experience of Minnesota budtime. It causes me not to long for the good old days but to hope for better days. And when I look up and again see the long, undulating vees of Canada geese honking their way north, I rejoice.

Christopher Boyce, whose story was the basis for the book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman, served 25 years in prison for espionage, escape and bank robbery. The story of his experiences in the federal prison system and his eventual return to society was chronicled in the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which he wrote with his wife, Cait Boyce, and author Vince Font.

Wreckage and Redemption

Christopher_Boyce_Article_Falcon_Snowman_BookThe following article first appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in the 1990s, during which time Christopher Boyce was an inmate of the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Oak Park Heights. The original article appeared under the headline “Parole brings freedom but much to fear.”

Written by Christopher John Boyce

Coming to prison is easy; it is the going home that puts convicts in a quandary. I often weigh the probability of their success. It is almost a speculative pastime with me.

I watch them arrive and leave over and over again. It is no easy task for men who have utterly botched their lives to rise above the stigma of their own social ruin. Mostly their repeated personal failures reduce them relentlessly to their own grim worlds of private self-abasement. But sometimes prisoners come along who have a chance to regain in life all that they have lost. I watch these few and I hope.

If I played the odds, though, I would bet on none of them.

Well fed and physically fit, a young man can find a certain Spartan enjoyment in all the horseplay and sports behind the walls. Some prisoners have never been happier and appear as comfortable as lifers in the Army. In prison they can be big shots, while on the streets they are nobodies.

Even the shared suffering of the imprisoned is a source of comradeship. The penitentiary can be a demented refuge for the social outcast. Many convicts are secretly relieved upon their return to this place. I think of them as the damned.

But when their time is up they are eager to go. And while they have languished for years in prison, their peers back home will have raised families and accumulated homes and cars and all those possessions that define a man’s life. The paroled convict usually begins anew with almost nothing to his name. The young among them are men in body, but economically as insignificant as beardless high school dropouts. They have so far to catch up that that temptations to take felonious shortcuts are almost always irresistible.

Of late I have watched the personal struggle of one young man yearning to remake himself into the husband and father he was meant to be. He was a typical son of Minnesota until he took a life. Unlike the overwhelming majority of prisoners, he did not come from society’s underclass, and so the chance for his successful release is a best case scenario.

Prison reduces to almost nil the choices inmates can make, meaning that the emergence of maturity is severely stunted. So it is that I often see this young man who has spent all of his adult life in prison reflect in his unguarded moments the teenaged demeanor that was his in the last year of his freedom. Because I have seen in him the determined spark of his own rebirth, I have treated him as I would my own brother. I have looked past his lapses and hoped against hope that he would be one of the few who left this place to go on to a whole life. I see enough good in him to know he can heal from the wreckage he has made of his young years.

He will leave his controlled life to experience the regulated freedom of the paroled. Where watchful guards once curbed his rambunctious belligerency with locked cells and strict rules, he must now moderate his behavior through the power of his own will. His success at doing so will determine whether he leads the wholesome life of a grown man or returns here to become forever an imprisoned deviant. The choosing is his, and he will have to choose a hundred times a day for the rest of his life. It is a daunting task.

He must walk inoffensively into the animosity of a community that once put him away from the fellowship of decent men. Having killed in the town where he will live, he must be forever heedful of the sensitivities of the bereaved. He must accept their aversion to his freedom, for he is the cause of their lingering grief. No matter the provocation, never should he show the family of the deceased anything but heartfelt respect.

He must learn to turn the other cheek. He must never raise his hand in anger against anyone. As a paroled murderer, any argument, any fight that in any way involves him will be deemed by the police to be his fault no matter the circumstances. For years he will remain an easy mark for any deputy sheriff or city cop bent on a quick bust. Any charge, even on the flimsiest of grounds, can be framed against a parolee. For the good of the community, law enforcement often feels obligated to put an ex-convict away just as soon as practical. There is nothing fair or just about it. It is just one of the many pitfalls faced by the freed prisoner.

I have seen in his eye the fear of failure, but it is a healthy fear that shows me he has not had so much prison that he is beyond recovery. True, for six years he has been surrounded by the very worst that society can spawn, but I know he still listens to those faint lessons from childhood that taught him man’s better nature. Most important, he has his own loyal family, which has stood by him in his adversity and is ready to give him a leg up as he makes himself into a man. He has so much to overcome, yet he is capable of taking himself far.

I have put almost too much faith in my friend. If, like so many others, he is brought back to this place, I will pity him his misfortune, for he will have thrown away all that he holds dear. But much more powerful than my pity will be my disgust at the opportunity he will have let slip. If he wastes the chance I will never get – the chance to begin again while still a youth – I will despise him for his weakness. And it will break my heart.

Christopher Boyce is the co-author of the 2013 book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. Convicted of espionage in 1977, the story of his crime was first told in the book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman. He was released from prison in 2002 and now resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Cait Boyce, a legal professional and prisoner rights advocate. He remains, as ever, an avid falconer.

It Happened 38 Years Ago

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Although it’s been nearly 40 years since the arrest of Christopher Boyce for espionage, some memories are never far from the surface.

Written by Vince Font

Time flies. Pretty much every one of us agrees that’s not a good thing. But some incidents in life are so traumatic that we find ourselves welcoming the passage of time, as if we just can’t seem to put enough years between ourselves and the moment that turned everything upside down. This is the case with an event that occurred 38 years ago this week.

On January 16, 1977, Christopher Boyce was arrested on suspicion of espionage. Three months later, he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. He was only 24 years old. With the exception of 19 months spent living on the run after a prison escape in 1980, he would spend the next quarter century of his life in prison. In 2002, following the intervention of parole advocate Cait Mills, Boyce was granted release. The two were married soon after.

This week marks nearly four decades since the day of Christopher Boyce’s arrest. His childhood friend and accomplice, Andrew Daulton Lee, was arrested 10 days earlier. This month is also the 30th anniversary of the release of The Falcon and the Snowman, the movie that told their story.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve come to know Chris well. It happens when you write a book together. In that time, I’ve observed a few things about him. Like the fact he doesn’t mark anniversaries such as these. He only remembers when reminded, and even then his reaction makes you realize how trivial dates on a calendar really are. Especially when it comes to memories that aren’t far from the surface.

I’ve learned that some scars don’t fade with the passage of time. And that what seems like a lifetime ago for one person is just yesterday for another. Christopher Boyce is a guy who’d just as soon forget the past and spend the rest of his days flying his falcons, but can’t. Many would say it’s a justified punishment. Others would say different. I’ll leave it to you to guess on which side of the argument I fall.

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Vince Font is the co-author with Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce of the book “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.” The book was released in 2013 and is available in paperback and e-book.

Christopher Boyce, American Sons and 2014 in Review

2014 was a big year for American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. During the course of that year, the book received over 100 reviews at Amazon (115 as of today), scoring an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. Australian journalist Mark Davis produced a moving portrait of Christopher Boyce that aired on Australian television. American reporter Bryan Denson wrote a series of articles that were featured in the Oregonian newspaper. The Falcon and the Snowman author Robert Lindsey showered the book with accolades. And Cait Boyce appeared on John Aberle’s Life Unedited radio show on numerous occasions.

This very blog didn’t do too shabby, either. Below, you’ll find some interesting facts and figures about the website’s performance that we thought you might be interested in checking out.

Here’s an appropriately fitting excerpt from the report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

As always, we thank every one of you for your continued support. American Sons was a book that took more than a decade to come to fruition. It has touched many people and was the instrument that served to rekindle an old friendship between Christopher Boyce and one of his dearest childhood friends, David Lee (Andrew Daulton Lee’s brother). It has also brought to attention Cait Boyce’s valiant fight against cancer, and has acted as a platform to shed light on her continuing work for prison reform.

But wait! There’s more. 2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie The Falcon and the Snowman, and a Blu-ray edition has been announced. In many ways, the telling of the life stories of Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce is far from over. We hope you’ll continue to ride the river with us.

The Official Book Trailer

Written by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and Vince Font, American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is the answer to every person who ever asked the question: “Whatever became of Christopher Boyce?”

In 1985, director John Schlesiger’s The Falcon and the Snowman introduced movie audiences to the true story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee – childhood friends from good families who became two of the youngest and most unlikely spies in American history. It starred hotshot young actors Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn as the titular characters and garnered critical praise from far and wide, even winning the official “two thumbs up” seal of approval from the oft-tough to please Siskel and Ebert.

The movie itself is largely incomplete, leaving an enormous question mark over the fate of Boyce and Lee. The book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman picks up where the movie left off, taking the reader through the incredible and sometimes impossible to believe experiences of Boyce and Lee as they struggled to survive the inhumane conditions of federal prison.

American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is a true story of hope, survival and redemption. It is available now in e-book and paperback.

John Pilger on Gough Whitlam and the CIA’s “Forgotten Coup”


The following article is reprinted by permission from the author, London-based Australian journalist John Pilger. The original aticle was published to Pilger’s website following the passing of Gough Whitlam on October 21, 2014.

Written by John Pilger

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution.” Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm.” In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric,” a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention.”

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House… a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally.” Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr.”

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots’, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA.” The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money.”

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state.” Known as the “coupmaster,” he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government.”

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis.”

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers,” Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

Follow John Pilger on Twitter @johnpilger and on Facebook at His 1989 book “A Secret Country” goes into detail on the coup against former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam.