Well-researched profiles in courage.

WISE GALS

THE SPIES WHO BUILT THE CIA AND CHANGED THE FUTURE OF ESPIONAGE

The hidden lives of pathbreaking women.

Drawing on considerable archival material—diaries, letters, interviews, reports, memos, scrapbooks, and photographs—cultural historian Holt, author of Rise of the Rocket Girls and The Queens of Animation, creates a vivid group biography of five strong-willed women who held significant positions in the early years of the CIA: Adelaide Hawkins, a divorced mother of three; Mary Hutchison, married to a CIA staff officer; Eloise Page, admiringly known as the “Iron Butterfly”; Elizabeth Sudmeier, who had begun her career as secretary to Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan; and Jane Burrell, “the model of a tough, successful CIA officer” whose short-lived career ended in a plane crash in 1948. The women had joined the agency during World War II, when it was known as the Office of Strategic Services. Led by Donovan, it served as the source of vital military intelligence. After the war, President Harry Truman quashed Donovan’s vision of a global web of intelligence-gathering agents, but as the threat of communism grew, Truman reinstated the agency as the Central Intelligence Group. With expanded powers, in 1947, it evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency. Holt reveals the frustration these women felt surrounded by misogynist “male, pale, and Yale” co-workers who were paid more, promoted to higher positions, and allowed privileges—to marry a non-American, for example—denied to women. In the 1950s, Allen Dulles, the new CIA director, set up a panel to address women’s concerns, but the detailed report by what some derisively called the “Petticoat Panel” was ignored. The author traces each woman’s challenging career, which involved recruiting and training foreign agents, designing a secure system for their communications, handling spies, engaging in counterintelligence, and heading operations around the world—Baghdad, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, and Rome—as the CIA’s focus shifted from containing communism to monitoring nuclear weaponry to tracing terrorists. She makes a strong case for recognizing their talents and sacrifices: Each lived “a life of necessary duplicity.”

Well-researched profiles in courage.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32848-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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