This lively, opinionated history makes it clear that presidents and CIA directors sometimes deserve each other.



An expert chronicle of the CIA through the actions of its directors.

Focusing on individual personalities allows Whipple, a Peabody- and Emmy-winning TV producer, to describe the influence they exerted over American’s intelligence establishment. He explains that the CIA mainly consists of “two camps.” Analysts gather information on other nations, sometimes through spies but often by simply reading their newspapers. Their information is usually accurate, if often ignored; pressed to “predict the future,” they obey, but, of course, they “aren’t perfect and they often pay the price.” In the second camp are operatives, who “practice deception and seduction, enticing strangers to betray their countries.” Whipple emphasizes that the CIA serves presidents who may ask for the impossible or the illegal, take credit for successes, and shift blame for failures. Thus, it’s accepted that 9/11 took the agency by surprise, although the author rightly points out that administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings of an imminent attack. Directors range from experienced intelligence officers to clueless politicos, technocrats, and ruthless zealots. Richard Helms spoke truth to power, warning Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon that North Vietnam wasn’t weakening, and then blotted his escutcheon by agreeing to spy on anti-war protesters. Allen Dulles thrilled Dwight Eisenhower by overthrowing supposedly hostile governments in Iran and Guatemala but then oversaw the disastrous invasion of Castro’s Cuba. William Casey greased the wheels of the Iran-Contra affair, which “almost sank Ronald Reagan’s presidency.” The best—according to Whipple: Leon Panetta, William Webster, Robert Gates, John Brennan—have been close to presidents but never partisan. Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes remains the best book about the CIA, but readers will not regret time spent on this readable journalistic account, which relies heavily on interviews with living directors and a surprisingly large number of surviving spouses, children, and associates.

This lively, opinionated history makes it clear that presidents and CIA directors sometimes deserve each other.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982106-40-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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