An avuncular account of a life spent uncovering deception for the CIA.

Memoir from a veteran of the arcane specialty of covert polygraph espionage interrogations.

A second-generation CIA officer, Trabue served from 1971 to 2011, directing both the covert-ops polygraph program and the CIA Polygraph School. His longevity seems attributable to his restrained persona. As he emphasizes, he is no James Bond, averring instead that "the threat of arrest and incarceration was real…the gentleman's game of espionage was really an extremely serious enterprise." Yet, he was drawn to covert examinations for the chance to travel abroad, satisfying the wanderlust remaining from his years as an "Agency Brat," noting, “a childhood filled with foreign travel made me attractive to Polygraph Section management.” Trabue's identification with the agency results in a circumspect account, even by genre standards. He steadfastly avoids identifying a single actual city or real-world case, relying on such obfuscations as “one of my favorite South American locations…a favorite for most visiting polygraph examiners.” He credits the previous generation of Cold War veterans for instilling in him rigorous respect for operational security, given that covert examination involves secretly bringing together the traveling examiner, the CIA case officer, the asset, and a 25-pound polygraph machine in safe houses in often hostile environments. Much of the text explores this basic challenge with anecdotal narratives, which become repetitive, although Trabue’s presentation of tradecraft, such as avoiding surveillance or utilizing hotels discreetly, feels authentic. Instead of historical narrative, the author focuses more on the psychological implications of his trade’s intricate probing of the human condition: "Whatever illegal activity people can do has been discussed during CIA polygraph tests." He emphasizes that his interrogations veered far from heavy-handed noir cliches: "The goal was always to snatch the information out of the examinee's back pocket without his knowledge through the use of persuasive and rational arguments."

An avuncular account of a life spent uncovering deception for the CIA.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06504-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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