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An irreverent and unsettling footnote to the war on terror.

A maverick spy’s season in prison.

Kiriakou (The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror, 2010) writes that whistleblowing the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program ended his career and led to his prosecution for inadvertently violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act: “I took a plea to one count,” he writes. “I didn’t fear prison. I was tougher than the CIA thought I was.” Still, he was surprised to find that “the training and experience that I had amassed in my CIA career would prepare me to survive and thrive in prison.” Kiriakou references 20 famous espionage “rules”—e.g., “admit nothing, deny everything, make counteraccusations”—as being particularly suited to incarceration, given that “prison is a combination of seventh grade, Lord of the Flies, and a mental institution.” The author had expected to serve about two years in a federal work camp, but he was placed in a low-security prison. Although Kiriakou’s burly physique and black-ops reputation protected him, he still found prison’s brutal, unwritten social codes to be challenging: “There were many more weirdos, lunatics, and freaks than there were good guys.” He notes that due to persistent segregation, he spent a year dining with the self-proclaimed “Aryans” before being invited to join the “Italians” (organized crime members). While Kiriakou speaks highly of a few helpful friends, he is disparaging of most of the people he encountered behind bars, particularly the high population of pedophiles (scorned by all other inmates) and the guards. “There were certainly some COs I respected,” he writes. “The sad truth, however, is that most COs are assholes.” Kiriakou confidently portrays himself as a larger-than-life survivor type, justifiably proud of his stance against CIA–sanctioned torture, but the book suffers from being overly cranky and exceedingly anecdotal.

An irreverent and unsettling footnote to the war on terror.

Pub Date: June 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945572-41-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Vireo/Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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