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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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