The engrossing, matter-of-fact memoir of a career CIA officer whose involvement with Nicaragua's Contras brought him to grief at the hands of a special prosecutor. A well-connected New Englander, Clarridge joined the CIA in 1955. Dispatched to Nepal, the author (then 27) was obliged to learn his offbeat trade on the job, while running a one-man listening post in Katmandu. Subsequently assigned to less remote but still exotic venues like Istanbul, New Delhi, and Rome (where he served as chief of station), Clarridge became a cold warrior par excellence. Adept at cultivating and recruiting sources of useful information, he achieved enough to be recalled to Washington in 1981 as head of the agency's Latin American Division. Inter alia, the author recounts what the CIA did and did not do in arming Nicaragua's Contras. In his straightforward narrative (officially vetted by erstwhile colleagues still at the CIA), Clarridge also details what he knew of the role played by Oliver North in the Contra campaign and the CIA's running battles with a Congress dominated by Democrats who, he says, had an eye for the main political chance. Moving on to the European Division during the mid-1980s, the author was later tapped to create a Counterterrorism Center. Eased out of the agency in 1988 in the wake of the Iran- Contra investigations, he was indicted by Lawrence Walsh. While prepared to fight these charges (essentially, of deceiving the Senate), the author accepted a pretrial pardon in 1992. In reviewing the factors that ended his life as a player in the great game, Clarridge makes a persuasive case for a strong US intelligence capability in an increasingly dangerous world and settles a host of old scores (e.g., with Jacques Chirac, the DEA, and the Tower Commission). A professional operative's apologia pro vita CIA.