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Agnes Smedley collected political movements like so many merit badges. The Missouri-born writer and activist fought for birth control and a free India, covered and befriended Mao from the early days of the Red Army, and—as was long assumed but only recently revealed in detail by author Ruth Price in The Lives of Agnes Smedley—even spied for Moscow. It took Price more than 15 years to finish the bio, and the effort shows. Though clearly able to tell a story, Price at times seems too close to her subject, whom she routinely refers to as Agnes. Still, Smedley’s life is so compelling, it’s hard to fault the author for her sympathetic treatment. Price reads at 5 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Mike Kanin)