Blaine Harden is an American author and journalist. His most recent book is The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot (2015). It’s about the rise of the tyrant who created North Korea and a young fighter pilot who stole his way to freedom with the help of a Russian-made MiG-15.
In the fall of 2017, Harden’s King of Spies will be published in the U.S. by Viking/Penguin and in the U.K. by Mantle/Macmillan. It’s an investigative biography of an American spymaster in Korea who was part Rambo, part Kurtz. The dark reign of Air Force Major Donald Nichols—amid mass executions, torture and severed heads—raises troubling questions about the U.S. government’s behavior on the Korean Peninsula. After 11 extraordinary years, the Air Force spirited Nichols out of the country in a straitjacket and forced him to undergo months of electroshock in a military hospital in Florida.
Harden’s 2012 book, Escape From Camp 14, was an international bestseller translated into 28 languages. It’s the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person born in a N. Korean prison camp to escape to the West. The book and Shin’s testimony pushed the United Nations to create a Commission of Inquiry that concluded in 2014 that North Korea continues to commit crimes against humanity in its gulag of prison camps. The commission has asked the UN Security Council to send its findings to the International Criminal Court for a trial that would hold N. Korea’s leaders accountable.
Escape won the 2112 Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique, a French literary award, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It also inspired a segment about Shin on 60 Minutes. Escape has become part of the common core in some American high schools, and has been used in Florida, Illinois, Vermont and Indiana as part of statewide programs focused on increasing reading among teenagers.
For 28 years, Blaine worked for The Washington Post as a correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. For four years, he was a local and national correspondent for The New York Times and a writer for the Times Magazine. He has also reported for PBS Frontline, The Economist, Foreign Policy, National Geographic and the Guardian. Gonzaga University (Blaine’s alma mater) awarded him a honorary doctorate in 2015.
Here are four print interviews with Blaine about Escape from Camp 14 and about his thoughts on writing and North Korea. Yonsei Journal of International Studies — an extended interview with Adam Cathcart, editor-in-chief of Sino-NK website. The Spectator (London). Bookgeeks (London). Asian Literary Review (Hong Kong). And an hour-long television interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb on Q & A.
Blaine is also the author of A River Lost. It’s about well-intentioned Americans (including the author’s father) who dammed and degraded the West’s greatest river, the Columbia. An updated and revised edition of A River Lost was published by Norton in 2012 to coincide with a PBS American Experience program about Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River. Blaine and the book are featured on the program.
Blaine’s first book, Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, was described by The Independent (London) as the “best contemporary book on Africa.” Order
Journalism awards include the Ernie Pyle Award for coverage of the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, the American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Nondeadline Writing (stories about Africa), and the Livingston Award for International Reporting (stories about Africa).
Blaine lives in Seattle with his wife Jessica and their two children, Lucinda and Arno.