Of Our Own Device

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
874 Pages
Reviewed on 04/25/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I'm a vagabond, having lived, studied and worked in many countries, poor, aspiring and rich. I have experienced poverty and war, as well as peace and prosperity, and I've learned that you don't appreciate the latter in full, without experiencing the former. Today, I'm still living in a foreign country, working in many others in the region, and traveling yet to others because... I can't get wanderlust out of my DNA!

My book was inspired by the movie Brokeback Mountain, Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and Anthony Grey's novel Saigon.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a great read set against the backdrop of the Cold War in 1985. The reader is introduced to the covert nature of the work of prominent intelligence services. This is a real thriller for fans of espionage and historical novels. Jack Smith is a newly recruited CIA case officer assigned to the American Embassy in Moscow. Jack is an outgoing man but beneath his seeming joviality is hidden another side of him, one he doesn’t want the world to see: he is gay. Meeting the genius Russian nuclear physicist, Eton Volkonsky, offers the opportunity of a lifetime. Jack is attracted to the young student and believes that he can transform him into a great spy for the CIA. However, he continues to have doubts that the talented young man could be attached to the KGB, yet his stubborn heart won’t let reason take control. Will the truth dawn on him when he finally leaves Russia?

M.K. South has crafted a gripping story of espionage with powerful historical references, enabling readers to take a ride back into the '80s to relive dramatic moments like the Chernobyl disaster, the nuclear arms race, the AIDS epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a lot more. While the book is centered on historical events like the disintegration of the Communist bloc, the author does an awesome job in offering wonderful insights into the Russian mindset, exploring the culture of the people at the time, unveiling the nature of spy work and the dangers associated with it, and taking readers on a powerful emotional ride with a gripping romance.

The setting is well-developed and every aspect of it comes across well in the narrative, including the physical locations deftly captured in exquisite prose, the social and political climate within which the story takes place, and the culture that dictates the conduct of the characters. The writing is crisp and emboldened by the author’s rare sense of humor, the finesse in the development of suspense, and the skillful handling of character. Of Our Own Device is a riveting tale with a great conflict; an intelligently plotted story with more turns and twists than readers can foresee. A very exciting read!

Ruffina Oserio

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a powerful thriller told around equally powerful historical events. For readers who enjoy political thrillers that are fast-paced and gripping, this book will be a wondrous treat. The novel features one of the perennial conflicts of modern history, the tug-of-war between the CIA and the KGB, set in an age when spy work was the order of the day with a shaky relationship between the US and Russia. Jack Smith is a new CIA agent attached to the US embassy in Moscow, a novice who quickly develops a good relationship with Eton Volkonsky. Eton Volkonsky is a student specializing in nuclear physics. A simple friendship could be transformed into a great opportunity as Jack is tasked to coax the young Russian student into becoming a spy. The huge question is: Can he be so sure about the man he trusts or could Eton be on a similar mission for the KGB?

M.K. South has created a stellar thriller with memorable characters and readers will be thrilled with the drama that takes place within these pages. The reader gets the feeling that the author is an expert in the workings of intelligence organizations. It is interesting to see how he weaves historical elements into the story, making relevant references to Afghanistan, the emergence of HIV AIDS, and a lot of verifiable information. There is a strong political and social commentary that punctuates the story and gives it life, unveiling a Russia that readers hardly know. Jack Smith is a well-crafted character and readers will love watching as he evolves through the political friction, the intrigue, and the game played by two intelligence bodies — the CIA and the KGB. Of Our Own Device is one that will be hard to put down. Tightly written and paced to keep the reader reading, nonstop.

Joel R. Dennstedt

Two aspects of M.K. South’s complex espionage thriller, Of Our Own Device, starkly define the reading experience one must expect upon tackling this lengthy novel. The plotting is meticulous and brilliantly satisfying. The sex is graphic, detailed, and same gender, but it is not gratuitous, and it is absolutely essential and integral to the book’s unfolding storyline. The year is 1985, an historical period rife with Cold War strategy and tactical maneuvering between two primary players: the superpowers - Russia and the United States. Jack Smith, in deep cover with an alternate backstory to keep him well hidden, plies his dual trades under the predatory and acute scrutiny of the Soviet Union as Gorbachev comes into power, a time when glasnost and perestroika serve to belie the undercurrent of severe danger inherent to his placement, especially considering the devastating and imminent threat of nuclear war.

Amidst the cunning games of spy vs. spy played out during this unstable time, Jack Smith develops a strategic and unintentional emotional/sexual bond with a young Russian would-be rock star, who happens also to be an up-and-coming physicist studying the potential effects of nuclear winter. M.K. South’s treatment of their most clandestine affair within his novel becomes the essential metaphor and conflict serving to propel his ever more thrilling and dangerous storyline. Which particular secretive revelation might cause more damage to them both becomes a crucial consideration. Meanwhile, the book accelerates progressively toward a fateful, unanticipated, but highly satisfying conclusion.

Ray Simmons

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is the first book I've read that featured a protagonist who is a spy and also happens to be gay. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was an interesting spy novel. It was fascinating to go back in time to the days of the Cold War and how we thought then. I had forgotten the feel of it, but M.K. South captures the ambiance of that era perfectly. I especially related to the conversations about classic rock music and how important and prevalent it was, not only to young Americans, but to young people the world over. America and the Soviet Union had a mutual fascination with each other and M.K. South has a delicate way of emphasizing this without overdoing it.

What I liked most about Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is the protagonist, Jack Smith. There are so many aspects of him that reminded me of myself as a young man. I am also from a small town; I also dreamed of going to California and government service was my ticket to see the world, just as it was for Jack. I found the depiction of life as an American living and working in a foreign country spot on. The foreign students, the fellow Americans you meet, and the surveillance by the host country were all beautifully written. This is a spy’s life - not the constant action and adventure of a James Bond novel but the daily stress of living a lie and still trying to be a fun, decent, human being. M.K. South writes well and I look forward to more stories of Jack and his California dream.

Jamie Michele

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a deeply engrossing Cold War spy thriller that follows its American protagonist, Jack Smith, through Communist '80s Moscow. It delves into real events and the perennial conflict that will be recognized by those new to this genre, and fleshes out the lesser known underground mechanisms that faithful readers of the genre will relish. While Jack navigates as an undercover CIA operative, he entangles himself with student nuclear physicist Eton Volkonsky. As the relationship evolves, Jack is forced to balance his work (and suspicions that Eton could be a KGB agent) and his personal life, which is equally covert. Against the backdrop of a war between the two greatest world powers, with risk spiked upon the highest of stakes, Of Our Own Device punctuates the time, place, and tension with a wallop.

Fresh from a binge-watch of The Americans, I was eager to stay in the Cold War era a while longer. Of Our Own Device absolutely delivered. The exhaustive research for details that must have gone into this story is reason alone to read it, but the icing on top is a strong plot and incredible character development. Covering every aspect from nuclear winter, Chernobyl, the introduction of HIV/AIDS, complicated spy games, and everything in between as driving plot devices, this book lends itself to a glorious symmetry of classic espionage and modern, albeit chronoscopic, romance. South has easily become one of my new favorite authors and I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next.

Lesley Jones

In the final years of the Communist Soviet Union, Jack Smith arrives in Moscow to work as a Cultural Affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy. Jack's role was not only to analyse the news stories, but also filter out potential targets to work as agents, whilst avoiding the attention of the KGB. Jack, a young man from California, feels completely isolated, being gay in a country where this is forbidden. He manages to keep his personal life private until Eton Volkonsky enters his life. Eton, a nuclear physics student and the son of an American defector, seems a perfect potential new recruit. Jack forms a close bond with Eton and, as his feelings grow stronger, he realises that Eton may be working for the KGB all along. Jack convinces himself that he is only carrying out orders and pushes his feelings for Eton aside. It is only when he leaves Moscow that Jack realises he loves Eton. As Jack hopes for another posting to Moscow, huge historic events unfold. With the ending of Communism, the Chernobyl disaster and the rise of the AIDS epidemic being blamed on the gay community, Jack is forced to evaluate not only his feelings for Eton, but also if his work can be morally justified.

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a gripping Cold War thriller set in the historic era of the fall of Communism. The detailed research of not only the historical events, but also the lesser known work within the two powers of the KGB and the CIA was outstanding. Every character was unique, rich, and realistic. Eton was probably my favourite character; the unveiling of his inner thoughts through diary entries was the perfect insight into his true nature. The relationship between Jack and Eton was heartwarming and so touching. The sexual scenes were graphic but totally necessary for the development of the plot. The story was fast-paced and the twists and turns throughout kept me engrossed. The author has captured the era with meticulous precision. M.K. South is a master of setting up suspense and intrigue which engage the reader from page one. A perfect novel for any lovers of historical events, espionage and spy thrillers.

Lucinda E Clarke

We first meet Jack Smith in Of Our Own Device by MK South when he is working in the American Embassy in Moscow. On the surface, he is one of the Cultural Attaches, but in reality he is a spy, tasked with identifying possible Russian officials and persuading them to work for the United States. He is a friendly, outgoing guy, liked by everyone, but he has a secret; he is a homosexual. He mixes easily with the Russian people he meets and becomes involved with a group of young people, actors, musicians, and playwrights. The father of one of them, Eton, originally defected from America to Russia and his grandfather is heavily involved in scientific research into the effects on the world following a nuclear bomb attack. Jack’s brief is to cultivate the family and discover what he can. He befriends the grandson, Eton, but events take a turn when he unwittingly falls in love with Eton, who in turn loves him back. Jack is faced with the dilemma of either betraying his country or his lover.

Of Our Own Device by MK South is an epic book which needs to be read slowly and carefully. There are so many twists and turns as Jack hesitates about recruiting Eton and persuading him to spy against his own people. Time and time again Jack pulls back and his character is so well drawn that you suffer with him in every chapter. He is never quite sure if he is the bait for the KGB to turn him – something his own spy work would love – and he agonizes that Eton may be KGB himself and, if not him, then one of his friends. The tension rises and falls every time they socialize and every time Jack has to ‘doctor’ his reports to his own organization. The reader is privy to Eton’s secret diary, but despite that you are never quite sure who is on which side. The culmination, at the time of the breaking down of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, builds to a magnificent climax and I read breathlessly faster and faster towards the end of the book. Highly recommended for lovers of spy thrillers that are down to earth and realistic. I have no hesitation in giving this book 5 stars - it was a great read.

Romuald Dzemo

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a novel with great appeal to fans of espionage and stories with strong historical settings. Set during the time of the Cold War, the story introduces readers to very compelling characters. It takes place during the last years of the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc and when the rivalry between the CIA and the KGB reaches its peak.

Against this backdrop, Jack Smith, an inexperienced case officer with the CIA, is assigned to the American Embassy in Russia. A lonely character with homosexual tendencies, Jack will find himself irrevocably drawn to a young Russian nuclear physics student, Eton Volkonsky. And while he tells his agency that Eton Volkonsky could be converted to work for the CIA, he builds a dangerous admiration for the young man, one that will cloud his vision and judgment. Could it be that Volkonsky is a disguised KGB asset? He will have to consider this question more seriously only after being pulled out from Russia, but will he get another chance of meeting Volkonsky?

M.K. South’s Of Our Own Device is a great read that captures the spirit of a historical period with brilliance. The characters are layered and three-dimensional and readers will love Jack, a very complex and compelling character. It is interesting to notice the internal conflict he experiences, accepting his gay nature and reconciling his job with his personal and love interests. The author seems to have great knowledge of espionage during the tense period of the Cold War and paints an image of Russia that will remind readers of covert activities, international tension, and the nasty game of betrayal. The novel is well-plotted, fast-paced, and done in beautiful prose. This author has succeeded in captivating readers by skillfully blending historical facts with pulse-pounding fiction.