Negotiator: The Life and Career of James B. Donovan

Negotiator: The Life and Career of James B. Donovan

Negotiator: The Life and Career of James B. Donovan

Negotiator: The Life and Career of James B. Donovan

Synopsis

James B. Donovan (1916-70) was an intrepid lawyer and a skillful negotiator. In his defence of unpopular causes he has been likened to Thomas Erskine, who represented Thomas Paine during the French Revolution and Harold Medina, who defended an accused accomplice of Nazi saboteurs during World War II. His courage was apparent in facing down demonstrators, hecklers, racists, and pickets, and in dealing with calculating Russian agents, hostile Cuban officers, and angry students, writes Phil Bigger, in this exciting tale of Donovan's life.

Excerpt

It was clear and eighty-one degrees in cuba on December 23, 1962. At San Antonio de los Banos Airport, outside of Havana, two men stood side by side on a platform near the tarmac watching a Pan Am flight board. One was the young Fidel Castro, thirty-five years old and now the premier of Cuba, a tall, patrician man dressed in crisp military fatigues. His now famous beard, a feature that he had adopted during his stay in the Sierra Madre Mountains at the start of his revolution, was full but neatly trimmed. Next to him was a New York lawyer, James B. Donovan, eleven years Castro’s senior. He was shorter and stockier, with thinning gray hair, but his steel-blue eyes were piercing and alive. Both men had been negotiating for months to secure the release of the soldiers captured by Castro’s forces following the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. the talks were nearly completed and now some of the prisoners were boarding planes bound for Florida and freedom.

Sharing the platform with Donovan and Castro were several aides and assistants of each, on hand to witness this momentous occasion. There were also numerous Cuban soldiers. Despite the success of the talks, there remained a deep feeling among Castro’s military advisers that the United States might still try to launch an attack on Cuba, and Donovan was, at times, likened to the Japanese peace envoys in Washington at the time of the strike on Pearl Harbor. As the group watched the prisoner-laden planes take off, several Cuban pilots who were circling the airport in Russian-built MIGs sought to salute their commander. One flew in over the platform at an exceptionally low altitude causing both the Americans and Cubans, including Castro and Donovan, to fall to their knees in panic. When someone near Castro asked, “What was that?” Donovan quickly yelled to Castro, “It’s the invasion!” Castro roared loudly with delight. His soldiers, though offended with the remark, joined with their leader in laughter. It was Donovan’s characteristic quick wit, and it helped to break the tension of the moment, as he had done so often during his negotiations with . . .

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