Beverly Hills Spy. The Double-Agent Flying Ace Who Infiltrated Hollywood and Helped Japan Attack Pearl Harbor

Author: Drabkin, Ronald

Publication Date:

February 2024



Original language and publisher

English (USA) | William Morrow (HarperCollins US)

Territories Handled

World excl. English

Territories Sold

Japan (Kawade Shobo Shinsha, at auction)


True Crime, WWII

Number of copies sold:

25,000 in print

Beverly Hills Spy. The Double-Agent Flying Ace Who Infiltrated Hollywood and Helped Japan Attack Pearl Harbor

Author: Drabkin, Ronald


“Drabkin writes with a novelist’s flair, roving between far-flung ritzy settings (Hollywood, London, Tokyo) and notable personages (from J. Edgar Hoover to Amelia Earhart). Readers will be swept up.” PW *starred* review

‘Thanks to recently declassified FBI files, Drabkin discovered why the UK, US, and Japan would prefer to keep their dealings with Frederick Rutland, aka ‘Agent Shinkawa,’ secret forever. . . . The life of a spy has never seemed so addictive or harrowing. Drabkin takes an evenhanded approach, portraying Rutland as complicated—equal parts hero and villain. This winning and dramatic biography pierces the veil of secrecy surrounding historical events.’ — Booklist

“A beguiling tale of espionage and double-dealing in the years leading up to World War II. Drabkin’s expertly narrated yarn, based on a trove of recently declassified documents, is constantly surprising, and it’s just the thing for thriller fans who enjoy kindred fictions of the Alan Furst variety. Strap in for a narrative that demands a suspension of disbelief—and richly rewards it. — Kirkus Reviews

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 US troop and fleet movements, military preparedness, warplane production, and, ultimately, information and aircraft technology that would allow Japan to attack Pearl Harbor. 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 WWI.

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Early support:

“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

“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

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

Drabkin’s ability to unearth a great story and tie the pieces together with Hollywood History made working with him a dream. Seth Abramovich, Senior Writer, the Hollywood Reporter

Drabkin is a stunning researcher. We collaborated on an academic article on Rutland and Japanese espionage, and this was the first academic paper in my life that I published that went through peer review with no significant changes. — Bradley Hart, Professor, Cal State Fresno, and award-winning author of “Hitler’s American Friends.”

Ronald Drabkin’s article is one of the most popular articles that we have recently published having been read more than 2,000 times in the first two months after publishing it. This double-blind reviewed article met all the criteria for solid research and writing. On the 75th anniversary of the United States Intelligence Community this year, interest in espionage and World War II is at an all-time high. Nevertheless, this subject matter would be of interest at any time given the relevancy and new perspective this article provides. Jan Goldman, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 

The stories about Nazis in Hollywood have only recently come out in recent books, such as “Hitler in Los Angeles” and “Hollywood’s Spies.” But no one has yet written about the Japanese infiltration of Hollywood, and I think it’s important. I’m glad Drabkin is writing about this.  Laura Rosenzweig, author of Hollywood’s Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles

Ronald Drabkin has continued to uncover previously unknown stories by navigating archives spanning the FBI, MI5, and the Japanese National Archives and I’ve been helping him on his quest to tell this story. — Ken Kotani, Professor, College of Risk Management, Nihon University. Senior Fellow of National Institute for Defense Studies, MoD, Japan and Visiting fellow of the Royal United Institute for Defense Studies.