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July 29, 2022 53 min

Dan Fesperman’s 13th thriller, “Winter Work,” is set just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi, East Germany’s brutal Cold War intelligence service, was busy destroying evidence. The C.I.A. was just as busy trying to learn the enemy organization’s secrets.

“The C.I.A., initially, had people calling ex-Stasi agents,” Fesperman says on this week’s podcast. “They got a hold of a directory with home phone numbers of some of these Stasi foreign intelligence people. And they started cold-calling them — like salesmen, like these irritating calls we get at home, except for the Stasi it was the C.I.A. calling. ‘Hey, would you like to share your secrets with us? We can pay you.’ They were getting mostly hang-ups, a lot of angry lectures. And when that quickly didn’t work out, they then began visiting them door to door, which didn’t work a whole lot better.”

Isaac Fitzgerald visits the podcast to talk about his new memoir, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts,” which recalls his troubled childhood and his eventual coming to terms with those responsible for it.

“I was able to give my parents a little more grace in this book,” Fitzgerald says. “And part of that was recognizing that my story didn’t start with my birth; my story starts with the things that happened to them.”

Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.

Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“Memoirs” by Robert Lowell

“Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to

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