by | Jul 13, 2016 | Gayle Lynds | 5 comments

The old KGB Lubyanka headquarters & prison on Lubyanka Square in Moscow.

Gayle Lynds:   Ah, the life of a Romeo spy.  Not so long ago, after one of my novels was published, I received an email from a fellow who claimed to have been a great Romeo spy, bedding women on four continents for the feared KGB during the Cold War. 

The following true story is the first installment of the next two weeks of blogs by Rogue Women Writers.  The topic?  Sex, spies, & writing.
Here’s what happened to me. . . .

It was obvious the man was proud of his career choice.  It’d been a good life, he told me in his initial email.  Interesting and full of adventure.  There’d been so many women he’d lost count.  And no, he didn’t romance all of them in service to Mother Russia.  Some had been for the sheer fun of it.  He admitted to being handsome, something of a daredevil, and charming.  Back then he chain-smoked and wore designer clothes.  It’d been the 1970s, and from exclusive beaches to casinos and palaces, he always dressed in style.

He had a hell of a story to tell, he assured me.  And because I had experience writing in the field, he wanted me to write it for him.

Talk to any spy writer, and you’ll hear about people who claim they’ve got a great idea for an espionage novel or that their life would make a thrilling book.  I told him I was too busy, and I didn’t write nonfiction anymore.  Besides, there was something faintly sinister and unbalanced about him.  I couldn’t quite figure out what.

“You can’t pass this up,” he argued.  “You’re my first choice.”

Did I believe that?  Please.  Fiction writers lie for a living.  So do spies.  I was polite but firm.  I said no.

I thought that was the end of it.

Still, my curiosity was aroused, so I researched him.  Surprisingly, I discovered he’d been the real deal.  He’d had an affair with a secretary in the German Chancellor’s office, which had been productive, and also had liaisons with British, Australian, Canadian, and Austrian women, among others, in various sensitive positions.     

Then in 1980, the Center gave him a new assignment — a woman who worked in a foreign embassy in Moscow.  Despite the chocolates, flowers, and usual flattery, she turned him down.  He’d been kicking around the world for eight years, making more and more mistakes, getting stranded, running out of money, and now he’d failed to ensnare an important target.

Why?  Not only was he no longer dashing, he was often disheveled and appeared rundown.  According to the Center’s psychological analysis, he’d grown emotionally unstable and suffered from a psychological disorder.  He was hard to control.

Who was this artifact from the past, a disillusioned man who still believed he was a great Romeo Spy?  My lips are sealed.  Spies have to keep secrets.  So do fiction writers. 

Why do you think he fell apart?  Have you known any Romeo spies?  Please tell!

And drop by my website’s World of Espionage anytime for other real-life spy tales.

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  1. S. Lee Manning

    What a pathetic story. The spy who thinks he's still sexy enough to seduce women for information – when he's a total loser. What a great character he'd make.

  2. Jamie Freveletti

    Too many broken relationships? His ego seemed enormous and sad that he was still banking on it years later as a pickup line.

  3. Sonja Stone

    I don't know, my heart goes out to the Romeos and Sparrows (or Juliets, if you prefer). There's a fine line between patriotism and prostitution. The odd thing about espionage is this: Romeo agents lean toward narcissism (I think they have to in order to successfully do the job), but absolute silence and discretion is required: no bragging, no public commendations. It's a strange dynamic. Interesting post, Gayle!

  4. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks S. Lee, Jamie, and Sonja for your comments. It was sad, pathetic. And interesting, because the life had worn on him. It does seem to me he had a serious case of narcissism, and because he couldn't see his weaknesses they grew as he continued to believe he was what he pretended. By the time we were emailing, he had his new story down pat, but it was too good to be true, and in the end, it wasn't. Even the KGB hadn't wanted him. Still, he lived to tell his version of the tale, and there's something rather wonderful about that!

  5. Chris Goff

    So often it's the most handsome, successful, and popular that end up hitting bottom while the rest rise to do great things. You can often see this as the case with the football star from your high school when you go to your 20th reunion. The geek is often looking good, has a great job, a nice wife and kids and the football star that's losing his hair, looking a little dumpy and divorced. They try and put on the bravado, but it falls short. It may be the stereotype, but stereotypes are there for a reason.

    That said, it is sad, and–in this case–he did become a lothario out of duty. We maybe owe him a small debt of gratitude for all his service.