On May 24, Cait Boyce made her third appearance on John Aberle’s radio show “Life Unedited.” Click the video above to hear the full broadcast. In addition to exciting announcements about a possible movie version of American Sons in the works, Cait discusses issues of inequality in the criminal justice system and talks about how she successfully freed convicted spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee. Many thanks to our friend and supporter John Aberle. To listen to past episodes of John’s fine program, go here.
Written by David Lee
As the brother of “The Snowman” I must say I was hesitant to pick up this book and read it. Having actually lived through this in a very personal way in the 1970s, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
I bought American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman on Amazon to read on my tablet, but somehow could not get myself to read it for over three months. Upon starting to read it, I thought I would read it straight through, but found myself having to stop to digest chapters or even pages at a time.
Knowing Chris and Cait, I found myself in time warps of memory. Events of years past would sweep over me in powerful waves. During Chris’s 18 months on the lam, the U.S. Marshals and other agencies of the government were some of my “unwelcome” best friends. I would go to Mexico often in those days, finding my belongings gone through in my hotel rooms and being photographed by men in suits while lying in the sun on isolated beaches. They came to my door often. They were dead serious. But not the brightest. My life was intertwined whether I wanted it or not.
With that said, one can understand my hesitance to read more “Falcon and the Snowman.” I was in no way happy with the original book or movie. The author twisted things I said and it was full of half-truths. To be honest, the truth was often much stranger.
American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is well done. It is honest and forthright. In my humble opinion, excellent literature. After a few chapters I allowed myself to just sit back and enjoy it. And I did enjoy it… Very much!
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out what happened next in the life of Christopher Boyce and his wife, Cait.
David Lee is the younger brother of Andrew Daulton Lee. He was portrayed by actor Chris Makepeace in the 1985 movie The Falcon and the Snowman.
Written by Robert Lindsey
Christopher Boyce is probably the most likable, most interesting and smartest former spy you’re ever likely to meet. I discovered this more than 30 years ago when I wrote The Falcon and the Snowman.
I was reminded of it again by American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, an autobiographical retelling of his life as a prisoner and fugitive who outsmarted federal agents for many months as they searched for him virtually around the world. The book (co-written with his wife, Cait, and Vince Font, a freelance writer) is one I never thought would be written.
It’s at once a beautifully written thriller, an endearing love story, a compelling narrative of survival and redemption and a horrific indictment of a prison system that dispatched a model prisoner at the prime of his life to a decade of haunting solitary confinement mostly because he had embarrassed the system, first by escaping from a maximum security Federal penitentiary, then, as an eloquent writer, publishing articles exposing to the outside world the often brutal and dehumanizing conditions of prison life. His descriptions of the brutality, knifings, murders, and beatings in prison will make you cry out for reform.
There’s little debate that Chris initially belonged in prison. At the age of 21, while working for a U.S. defense contractor, he had collaborated with a friend, Daulton Lee, to sell classified documents to Soviet agents in Mexico, largely, he said, because he’d discovered he was unwittingly part of a secret plan to misinform a U.S. ally, Australia, about intelligence matters, which he thought of as a betrayal of American values.
He was disenchanted – like many young Americans – with his government following the revelations of Watergate and official lies told during the Vietnam War. He briefly considered taking his information to a reporter, but instead, in a catastrophic, impulsive choice, Chris, who had a history of risk-taking, sent Lee to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico with the first of what would become an avalanche of secret documents.
Caught in 1977, Chris was sentenced to 40 years in prison for espionage. That’s when I met him and gathered the material that would become The Falcon and the Snowman.
A few weeks after the book was published and Hollywood was preparing to make the film version, he escaped from the Lompoc Federal prison and disappeared for almost two years before being rearrested. It was then I wrote a sequel to the original book called The Flight of the Falcon.
I thought I’d pretty much told the story of his daring escape and manhunt in this book, but when I read American Sons I realized how wrong I was.
The book is full of new details about his adventures and misadventures, probing personal revelations, and twists and turns that keep you flipping pages as fast as you can. You feel the tension when Chris, guarded by a dozen federal agents, testifies before Congress about the porous security arrangements at his employer, probably ultimately helping his eventual release, and you cheer a little when the hard-nosed federal judge who presided at his trial is persuaded by Chris’s wife to write a letter endorsing an early release.
I was skeptical about three people writing a book together – good books are seldom written by a committee – but the three of them somehow pulled it off, seamlessly moving the story forward at a hectic pace.
There are two protagonists in this story: Chris himself – and Cait, the stand-out hero, a California surfer girl turned paralegal who waged a brilliant, sustained, years’ long legal campaign to free first Daulton Lee, then Chris, while fighting off recurrent bouts of breast cancer.
Along the way, Chris fell in love with her. Shortly after Chris was finally released after 25 years in prison, they were married.
I can’t wait to see the movie.
Robert Lindsey is the author of The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage (1980) and its follow-up, The Flight of the Falcon: The True Story of the Escape and Manhunt for America’s Most Wanted Spy (1983). His other works include Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me and Ronald Reagan: An American Life. A veteran journalist, Mr. Lindsey was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and served as the Los Angeles bureau chief for the New York Times. His most recent book, Ghost Scribbler, an autobiography of his life and career, was released in 2012.
Written by Nancy LaFever
It was a career highlight to have been asked by friend and author Vince Font to edit the book “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.” It was a wild ride through a story told by three distinct voices that covered over thirty years of Christopher Boyce’s and Cait Boyce’s lives. While we know a great deal of Cait’s experiences from the book, there are aspects of her life work that deserve closer attention. I’ve been very fortunate to get to know Cait since the book and below she shares thoughts about that work as we near her 60th birthday.
N.L.: On the eve of your 60th birthday, it’s astounding that you spent a third of your life fighting for the release of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee from prison! As you reflect on this milestone life marker, what drove you to keep going in light of so many obstacles?
C.B.: “I’ve always been taught that we are more than the sum of our choices and decisions. When I involved myself in these cases, I had no clue what I was doing! Quite literally, everything I know about federal parole I learned on these two cases. As I became more involved with Daulton’s, then Chris’s cases, and with the parole system, I felt a deepening sense of distrust for the legal system and the way we incarcerate people. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in the ‘system’ as a framework for justice – but what struck me was we lock people up with no view to the end of the sentence. I made a promise to them, but also made a promise to myself that I would see this through to the end – and the end wouldn’t happen until the last one walked free.
A lot of things have been said about me – some of which are not very pleasant to hear. But the one thing that even my biggest detractors seem to agree on is the fact that I am tenacious and immovable when my mind is made up. While not a compliment, it’s that level of tenacity that makes me keep my promises – no matter how far-fetched they seem to be. Freedom for Boyce and Lee, really? Is there a more improbable notion from someone in their 20’s? Yeah, right. Here we are, 33 years later and Chris is at home laying bricks for a new patio…”
N.L.: Over the years, you’ve gained expertise in the field of prison reform. Would you talk about that?
C.B. “I’m not sure that I have an expertise, per se, but prison reform became a huge issue for me when I saw how prisoners were treated.
I hear a lot of people complain that the ‘system molly coddles inmates.’ The constant refrain of ‘if you can’t do the time…’ and that’s been the mentality of the people running the prisons as well. But every man or woman who is sent to prison, for whatever the reason, must be guaranteed that they will survive it. A case in point is the State Prison at Corcoran, California, where guards shot and killed seven inmates in the first 10 years of operation, and within the first nine months of operation guards shot and wounded three inmates in eight weeks. The shootings were ruled justified on the claim of the guards that they were protecting an inmate or another guard, but during the subsequent Department of Justice inquiry, they locked down and there was a ‘code of silence.’ Physical restraint and non‑lethal weapons (gas or rubber bullets) were not used to stop fights and in 2000, eight Corcoran guards were indicted for arranging prison gladiator fights for recreation.
In the case of Boyce and many other inmates, solitary confinement and no human contact were used rather than physical violence. Many prisoners who are put in solitary confinement will try to take control of their environment by engaging in self-destructive behaviors like beating themselves or refusing to eat. Depression, schizophrenia and paranoia are a few of the side effects. And to what end? Mental illness among inmates is raging out of control. A study done in 2006 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of all jail and prison inmates have mental health issues; an estimated 1.25 million suffered from mental illness. The current 2014 projection is that people with mental illness are over-represented in the criminal justice system by rates of two to four times the normal population. These are some pretty depressing statistics for the richest nation in the free world and they get worse with each passing year.
With the onset of mandatory minimum sentencing after the passage of the Crime Control Act, we also saw 18-year-old kids and old people serving inordinate amounts of time for first-time convictions. Many of the drug possession charges carried MM’s of 20 to 25 years even for the young first-time offender. This means simply that a lot of first-time offenders, who weren’t really ‘criminals’ by definition, will eventually be released to a society who doesn’t want them and can’t support them. They will receive no mental health help, no counseling or training, and nothing that will prepare them for ultimate release. Believe me – if that 18-year-old could have been saved all those years ago, he’s lost now. And he’s angry, uneducated, unemployed, and once he hits the streets he’s going to go back to the only thing he knew. Now we’ve really criminalized him.”
N.L.: Do you see any positive or encouraging changes in the prison system to address some of these issues?
C.B.: “Last week, the Department of Justice announced a change after years of demands. Clemency Project 2014, a working group composed of the Federal Defenders, the ACLU, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has all moved forward to support change in the federal sentencing regulations and the Justice Department agrees on the plan to restore the integrity of the clemency process.
This is a terrific leg up for the men and women who have been locked down for years for non-violent offenses. It helps the aging prisoners and those that have already done more time than is humane. I’m testing this new-found vision by filing a clemency petition for one of my clients who has been locked down since 1983 for one count of espionage. He is now 80 years old and is routinely overlooked for parole. Let’s hope that now, at age 60, I’m still as tenacious as I was 33 years ago!”
Writer/editor Nancy LaFever has been writing professionally for ten years, crafting magazine articles, blogs, magazine profiles and copywriting for a diverse array of clients. In addition to her work on “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman,” LaFever recently edited the new sci-fi/young adult book, “Madolix.”
Written by Christopher Boyce
Like my long-dead ancestors beyond living memory, I enjoy an innate fear of lions. I love the terror they invoke in me. I suppose it is in my genes. The sight of mountain lions out in the wild lands causes my pulse to spike. Still, I treasure every encounter. To me, they are the ancient ones who made their way in this country long before humans took over. They are mostly hidden from us, but still dangerous and significant.
One morning last autumn, I bundled up and went walking down the Crooked River. It had been hot and dusty, but the previous night’s rain had made the trail damp, soft, and silent. There was no breeze and thus no man-scent to swirl about in the juniper woods.
Wearing sneakers, I stepped soundlessly down the trail, stopping often to look and listen. Above me, ravens caw-cawed from the great canyon cliffs. The river gurgled by in its pools and eddies. And then, abruptly, anxious deer barked not far ahead in a close meadow.
I froze so as not to spook them. The half-dozen bucks seemed ready to bolt. But as I studied them, I sensed I was not the cause of their alarm. They were not looking at me. Their eyes seemed unfocused, but their ears and nostrils twitched, all intent on listening and smelling. And so I did as they did. I unfocused my eyes and listened.
Seconds passed. Nothing moved. The ravens above me fell silent. All were watching. Something else was here.
From the corner of my eye, I awakened to the flicking of two small black triangles thirty feet beyond me in the brush. I looked intently, barely breathing. The black, flicking triangles became the fur on the back of two ears attached to the great head of a mountain lion.
He was enormous. He had been stalking the deer ahead and was now peering at them over the sage. He had not noticed my silent approach from behind, but there I was. Way too close. Breathless.
For several minutes, I watched him watching them. Every little while, the tip of his tail would tremble, causing my heart to quietly pound. I dared not move as I watched the mountain lion begin to inch slowly toward the bucks. Now I could see his entire body, stretched out from the jaws of his skull to the end of his long tail. This was a fully grown male lion, as big as they get.
He crossed over the trail in front of me in a crouch and crept up into the escarpment above without a sound. Like a ghost, he worked his way around the herd of deer to come upon them from the other side.
He had never seen me. I turned and walked quickly out of the canyon.
When I reached the top of the cliffs, I sat upon a stone seat fashioned by the ages. I marveled at all I had just witnessed and counted myself among the most fortunate of men. I had truly become free. I know now that freedom in this modern world is, at best, a fleeting thing. But at that moment, I felt what I believe is the greatest freedom of all: the freedom to be left alone.
There was a time when I was locked away for a quarter century in a hell on earth. Ten years of that was in solitary confinement. It was the longest of journeys, but somehow I survived the isolation and the chains. Today, I search for mountain lions in the granite cathedrals of the Crooked River Gorge. And I am free.
Christopher Boyce, the subject of the 1985 movie The Falcon and the Snowman, spent 25 years in prison for espionage. He is the co-author of the book “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman” available now in paperback and e-book. Click here to order the book today.
Written by Vince Font
Alright, maybe the title to this blog post is a little off the mark. In truth, the YouTube of today is so riddled with ads that it bears zero resemblance to the UHF television of my youth – never mind the ad-free YouTube of the mid-2000s. But all that aside, it’s still pretty cool. And there’s practically no end to the amount of stuff you can find there.
Lately, I’ve thrown my efforts into trying to increase the book’s visibility via our official YouTube channel. To that purpose, I created a slideshow to go along with the interview we did in October with radio host extraordinaire John Aberle for his show Life Unedited. John was good enough to let us use the audio to help in our promotional efforts, proving himself (once again) a class act we’re glad to know.
If YouTube doesn’t see fit to strike us with copyright infringement for the brief 30 seconds of time Pat Metheny and David Bowie’s “This is Not America” plays as bumper music on the show, the video should remain up for a long as the interwebs continue to draw breath. But just in case, check it out now by clicking the Play icon in the video box above. You never know when the wicked overlords might yank it.
I’m also working on building up a fairly respectable amount of other YouTube content, thanks in large part to those individuals who saw fit to share the wealth. Here are a few samplings for your enjoyment and edification, starting with Christopher Boyce’s U.S. Senate testimony from April of 1985. This was written about in a chapter titled “Mr. Boyce Goes to Washington” in our book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.
Part two of Christopher Boyce’s testimony.
And part three…
A big thanks to the folks at NOIR4USA for digging up that long lost footage and sharing it with us all. Cool stuff, to be sure. But it doesn’t end there. One of our Twitter followers, Simulacra Deorum, created the following promotional video for the book before its release, back when the working title was a bit different than it is now.
And then there’s this unforgettable video from the wonderfully wicked imagination of Paul Weston, whose masterful “product placement” for American Sons is something we can totally get behind. See if you can count how many “Falcon and the Snowman” references there are in this clip.
Last but not least, there’s the interview Chris and Cait did with Petersburg Channel 5, a Russian-language TV station headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia. No subtitles, so bust out your translator apps.
There’s plenty of other stuff to be found on the official YouTube channel, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover. It’s more fun that way, anyway. As a reminder, don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel to be notified of new uploads. And if you haven’t done so already, buy yourself a copy of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. You can get it in paperback from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and in e-book format through a variety of online platforms including the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook markets.