In the spirit of Ben Macintyre’s greatest spy nonfiction, the truly unbelievable and untold story of Frederick Rutland—a debonair British WWI hero, flying ace, fixture of Los Angeles society, and friend of Golden Age Hollywood stars—who flipped to become a spy for Japan in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Frederick Rutland was an accomplished aviator, British WWI war hero, and real-life James Bond. He was the first pilot to take off and land a plane on a ship, a decorated warrior for his feats of bravery and rescue, was trusted by the admirals of the Royal Navy, had a succession of aeronautical inventions, and designed the first modern aircraft carrier. He was perhaps the most famous early twentieth-century naval aviator.
Despite all of this, and due mostly to class politics, Rutland was not promoted in the new Royal Air Force in the wake of WWI. This ignominy led the disgruntled Rutland to become a spy for the Japanese government. Plied with riches and given a salary ten times the highest-paid admiral, shuttled between Los Angeles and Tokyo where he lived in large mansions in both Beverly Hills and Yokohama, and insinuating himself into both LA high society and Japan’s high command, Rutland would go on to contribute to the Japanese navy with both strategic and technical intelligence. This included scouting trips to Pearl Harbor, investigations of military preparedness, and aircraft technology. All this while living a double life, frequenting private California clubs and hosting lavish affairs for Hollywood stars and military dignitaries in his mansion on the Los Angeles Bird Streets.
Supported by recently declassified FBI files and by incorporating unique and rare research through MI5 and Japanese Naval archives that few English speakers have access to, author Ronald Drabkin pieces together to completion, for the first time, this stranger-than-fiction story of one of the most fascinating and enigmatic characters of espionage history.
Ronald Drabkin is the author of Beverly Hills Spy and peer-reviewed articles on Japanese espionage. His obsession with espionage history started when he was as a child in Los Angeles, where he vaguely understood that his father had been working for the US military in counterintelligence. Later he discovered that his grandfather had also been in “the business,” and it drove a voyage of discovery into previously classified documents on three continents. His career prior to writing was at early stage startups in the US, where he was an early adopter of Google and Facebook advertising. He currently lives in Tokyo.
“A rip-roaring ride through the world of espionage and the tortured existence of a deeply flawed man who spent years of his life trying to redeem himself. Drabkin makes the biggest moments of the 20th century come vividly alive through his storytelling.” — Kate Andersen Brower, New York Times bestselling author of The Residence and First Women
“An incredible story of British WWI hero ‘Rutland of Jutland’ and his fascinating life spying for Japan before WWII. Frederick Rutland traveled the world and mingled with Hollywood celebrities, all while the FBI, MI5, and the Office of Naval Intelligence watched him closely. A reminder of a lesson learned long before 9/11 that when law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and allies do not work together, the consequences can be deadly.” — Jeffrey Trussler, vice admiral (retired) US Navy and former director of Naval Intelligence
“What a fascinating tale this is—of espionage, of aviation, of heroism and betrayal, of class boundaries in the US and the UK. It is a dramatic story from the pre–World War II era with resonance today.” — James Fallows, National Book Award–winning author of National Defense and former White House staffer
“Beverly Hills Spy is an unforgettable story—class politics, the interim between World Wars, heroes, traitors, espionage—set among the backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood. Readers will be shocked to learn the untold tale of Frederick Rutland, and the instrumental role he played in the attack on Pearl Harbor.” — Kirk Wallace Johnson, author of The Feather Thief and The Fishermen and the Dragon
“Expertly researched and written with flair, Beverly Hills Spy sheds fresh light on how one of the 20th century’s greatest cataclysms came to pass. Centered on the morally murky exploits of a war hero who loved the high life too much, Ronald Drabkin’s book crackles with rich details about the paranoia and misunderstandings that poisoned relations between the United States and Japan. All narrative history should be this revelatory, and this compelling.” — Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start
"A masterpiece of espionage nonfiction, Beverly Hills Spy takes readers through the exploits of famed aviation pioneer Frederick Rutland. But was Rutland a hero or traitor? Ronald Drabkin’s take on the story is filled with intrigue that will leave readers guessing why one of the greatest naval aviators of all time decided to help the Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor and how Rutland was connected to WWII secrets of Hollywood’s elite." — Brett Velicovich, author of Drone Warrior and Fox News contributor
“By using previously overlooked sources from three countries, Ronald Drabkin reveals the compelling story of one of the early twentieth century’s most important yet least-known spies. Frederick Rutland’s story carries important lessons about the nature of intelligence gathering in peacetime—and how it can be combatted. It also raises questions about how governments can best protect their secrets while preserving and protecting civil rights, even in wartime.” — Bradley W. Hart, author of Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States