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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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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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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