Joan Brady: Alger Hiss 'was framed by Nixon'

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tags: Alger Hiss, Nixon, Joan Brady



Susanna Rustin is a writer and editor on the Saturday Guardian. 

Joan Brady first met Alger Hiss on a hot summer evening in Manhattan in 1960. She was a 20-year-old ballet dancer, her future husband Dexter Masters was 52, and she was used to feeling patronised by visitors to their apartment.

Irritable and conscious of her limitations as a cook, Brady was taken aback by Hiss when he came to dinner. He showed a highly developed interest in ballet, was polite about the overcooked beef, and showed “no anger, no bitterness” although he claimed to have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted of perjury in 1950, jailed and denounced as a communist spy.

As she recounts the remarkable tale of their first meeting, Brady still sounds surprised: ”Here I am meeting somebody that I read in my school books was such an evil human being, and he comes to the door and looks like a boy scout.”

Though Joan never warmed to Hiss’s wife Isabel, the couples became friends. Hiss was reliable, cheerful and a great letter writer. Had he really spied for the Russians? Neither Joan or Dexter knew or much cared.

Fifty-five years on from that first meeting, Brady has changed her mind. Her new book America’s Dreyfus: The Case Nixon Rigged sets out to clear Hiss’s name. Hers is not the first attempt. Pulitzer prize-winning historian Kai Bird and former editor of the Nation Victor Navasky are among those who have already tried. But Brady’s book, which she has worked on for 10 years and will be published in the US next spring, offers a unique perspective. ...




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