THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN by Scott C. Johnson

THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN

A Father, a Son, and the CIA

KIRKUS REVIEW

A former Newsweek foreign correspondent reviews his often perplexing experiences as the son of a CIA operative.

Now a freelance journalist, Johnson begins in 1973, his birth year, with a story about a snake charmer in India, where his father was stationed. The snake charmer proves an apt metaphor for the mysterious elder Johnson, a sophisticated persuader whose ability to charm was his deadliest arrow as he sought to flip other agents and foreign nationals. The author does not obey a strict chronology. After 10 chapters that deliver us to 2001, Johnson returns to Mexico City in 1968, wondering if or how his father was involved in the deadly violence that occurred there just before the Olympics. Rendering the question even more wrenching is his realization that Johnson père could have been involved in the arrest of the father of a woman Johnson fils was dating. About halfway through, the narrative arrives near the present with a summary of the author's sometimes-harrowing experiences covering the war in Iraq; he survived an IED explosion while riding in a Marine vehicle and had other brushes with death. We also hear about Sarajevo in 2004 and, in later chapters, about visits with his uneasily retired father in Spokane. They took some road trips, and en route, we learn about some of the missions and adventures of Johnson père, though he says he resents interrogations. Nonetheless, the author kept pushing him to impart as much family and professional history as possible, trying to understand a man with such a deadly past who nonetheless both professes and demonstrates a profound love for his son.

Gripping, emotional depictions of the conflicts that rage in the interior and exterior worlds of a spy—and of a journalist.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-393-23980-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2013




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