by Robin W. Winks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 18, 1987
A lengthy (584 pp.), extensively annotated, and consistently fascinating report on many of the ivy Leaguers who have served their country in clandestine capacities. Mystery-critic Winks (Modus Operandi,' Colloquium on Crime) makes no claim to comprehensiveness. His briefing focuses on Yale faculty members and graduates who worked for the OSS or CIA during a period that runs roughly from the start of WW II through 1961. Further, the author largely limits his coverage to intelligence activities in the European theater and on the home front. Despite these self-imposed constraints, Winks (who interviewed over 200 Former agents and gained access to a wealth of recently declassified files) has compiled a record remarkable For both interpretive commentary and as grand a collection of spy stories as any thriller buff might want. His cast of characters features the engaging likes of Norman Holmes Pearson, a distinguished Hawthorne scholar who headed the OSS's counterintelligence unit in wartime London and subsequently played a key role in the publication of Sir John Masterman's The Double-Cross System (1972). Winks also provides as full an account as is probably possible of James Jesus Angleton's shadowy career. Included as well are vivid rundowns on the contributions made by field operatives like Donald Downes (an expert at, among other enterprises, burgling his way into neutral nations' embassies) and desk-bound polymaths who conducted analytic research on subjects ranging from Nazi Germany's tank production through oil consumption by the Axis powers. Along his discursive way, Winks does not shrink from judgments. At one point, for instance, he suggests that the CIA's recent troubles have been at least partially attributable to ""its growing inability to attract liberally educated men and women who knew that civic responsibility arose in good measure from a shared sense of morality."" Nor is the author (who donnishly concedes that he prefers a typewriter to a word processor) overly enthusiastic about the secret services' latter-day willingness to rely on machines rather than brainpower. A very special book--one that affords insights as well as intelligence.
Pub Date: Aug. 18, 1987
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1987
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