by Chris Whipple ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 15, 2020
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
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020
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by David Grann ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2017
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Finalist
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.
During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Pub Date: April 18, 2017
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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