A low-key, respectful life of a decent American officer whose quietly significant work helped lead to the Oslo Accords.

THE GOOD SPY

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ROBERT AMES

A poignant tribute to a CIA Middle East operative who helped get the Palestinians and Israelis to talk to each other—and died for it.

Accomplished, wide-ranging author Bird (Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, 2010, etc.) has great sympathy for Philadelphia native Robert Ames (1934-1983), who came of age in the late 1950s, became a CIA agent and worked efficiently in building trust between Palestinians and Americans. In the late ’60s, the CIA, headed by Richard Helms, worked with Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council and President Richard Nixon in managing the tense situation in the Middle East, where Jordan was on the brink of civil war, squeezed by Yasser Arafat’s PLO and Israel. Through his friendship with pro-American Lebanese businessman Mustafa Zein, Ames cultivated a long-running relationship with PLO operative Ali Hassan Salameh,“the Red Prince,” which helped bolster the legitimacy of the PLO. Promoted to chief of covert operations in most of Arabia, Ames took huge risks by bringing Salameh in a highly secret visit to the United States and even meeting Arafat. Keeping “back channels” open during the Iran hostage crisis occupied years of Ames’ career, all while he maintained contact with Zein after the Mossad’s assassination of Salameh in 1979. Moving from CIA operations to intelligence under William Casey, Ames was appalled by Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s tacit support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and worked “desperately to unchain Washington from its rote support of Israeli behavior.” He would be sacrificed in the conflagration, one of numerous victims of the terrorist truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983.

A low-key, respectful life of a decent American officer whose quietly significant work helped lead to the Oslo Accords.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-88975-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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