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 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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

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