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Karl Baier, the Deputy Chief of Station for the CIA in Vienna, has been handling a high-level asset in the Hungarian Government for several years. As the revolt against Soviet rule breaks out in October 1956, triggering a Soviet invasion, Baier crosses the border into Hungary to locate and rescue his agent.

To bring his asset out of Budapest and into a new life in the West, Baier must dodge and escape the brutal Hungarian security service, the Red Army, and the KGB, as well as obstruction from his superiors back home.

Author Bill Rapp spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest Cold War spy thriller, THE BUDAPEST ESCAPE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers will take away a more realistic image of what intelligence work is really about, the political context and limitations of that work, and the link to policy making in Washington.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was assembling and describing the political environment, while tying all that to the story of Karl Baier’s adventures in Vienna and Budapest. The biggest opportunity was to combine my love of history and intelligence into a single story for the reader.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I was surprised at the evolution of the relationship between Karl Baier and his KGB nemesis, Sergei Chernov.

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

I wanted to offer an alternative to the books in the genre that highlight violence and gun play, as well as the role of some kind of superhero, which distorts the reality of intelligence work.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

The two most influential writers in this genre have been Charles McCarry and Eric Ambler for the quality of their prose and the depth of their characters.


Bill Rapp started his professional life as an academic historian and eventually spent 35 years working at the Central Intelligence Agency. Bill continues to work part-time as a consultant and trainer at the Agency, but he devotes as much time as possible to his writing, and especially his Cold War Spy thrillers featuring Karl Baier, an officer at the CIA. Bill spent the bulk of his career as an analyst in Washington, DC, but he also had numerous overseas tours in Europe, Canada, and Iraq. He previously wrote a three-book private detective series set in the Chicago area where he grew up. Bill lives in northern Virginia with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and a cat.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.