Politically neutral, educational, and sometimes insightful adventures of a working spy before and after retirement.

AMERICAN SPY

WRY REFLECTIONS ON MY LIFE IN THE CIA

An ex–intelligence officer delivers a mixture of autobiography, insider tales, and occasional derring-do.

In his first book, former staff CIA operations officer Roy writes that his youthful ambition to become a spy owed less to a macho character than to his love of travel. After finishing law school and passing the bar, he underwent the yearlong CIA training course, which included more fireworks and hardship than he encountered during a 13-year career (1983 to 1996), mostly in Latin America and the former Yugoslavia. Historians have revealed many of the CIA’s disastrous covert operations and intelligence failures, but few deny that its central function—gathering information on foreign nations’ leaders and public opinion—has been important. The author emphasizes that governments (no less than individuals) ignore accurate information that contradicts their beliefs. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Yugoslavia began breaking up. American policy insisted that the nation remain united despite CIA warnings that almost no one in Yugoslavia wanted this outcome and that murderous hatred between ethnic groups might require outside intervention. Roy recounts these dismal events and his own adventures when, after several years and many mass atrocities, the U.S. took notice. He adds that, having ignored the facts on Yugoslavia, the American government did the same with Iraq. Despite pressure from above, the CIA could not find a good reason to invade, but the leaders went ahead anyway. Leaving the service, Roy became an entrepreneur, first in the former Yugoslavia and then in Iraq immediately after the 2003 conquest. He recounts often hair-raising adventures, but readers curious about the nature of his business will be frustrated. The book is less an autobiography than a collection of short chapters recounting the mechanics of intelligence-gathering (successes as well as failures), the occasional narrow escape, essays on world hot spots, complaints about political leaders, and plenty of CIA gossip.

Politically neutral, educational, and sometimes insightful adventures of a working spy before and after retirement.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63388-588-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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UNTAMED

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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