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CIA, Newspaper Reporter, Plot Twists, History And Fiction

October 10, 2019

Last weekend I was at Half-Price books during one of the many rain showers and came across Tim Wiener’s book on the history of the CIA.  Legacy Of Ashes is the rather fast-paced accounting with stories galore–all well-sourced–of the first 60 years of the Central Intelligence Agency.   Readers of history will slip easily into the time-line and the rich cast of characters from the international stage.

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Before you know it the pages of Truman presidency will have slipped into Ike’s tenure, and then soon after the 1960 election, the Bay of Pigs looms large.  It is very easy to read this history and also see your favorite spy movie flickering images in the back of your mind.

The story Weiner wants us to be aware of in the 600 pages will doubtless leave you feeling irritated at the vast amounts of money and human treasure wasted.  Granted, there are successes the CIA has been involved with over time, but the fact remains the CIA has also been behind the eight-ball too often when trying to evaluate foreign nations or when advising presidents on policy moves.  Through it all this story takes you effortlessly along the tortured trajectory of the organization. That Weiner knows how to construct a fantastic read is without a doubt. The work receiving the National Book Award makes my point.

What struck me from the first pages of Weiner’s book was how it seamlessly aligned with the fiction read by Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, which I had started just days prior.  A Firing Offense has a strong character which is most dubious about the functionality of the CIA.  With Ignatius’ background comes a real-world quality to his plots along with impressions which he wishes his readers to grab onto.  His writing is delicious.

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Added to the charm of Ignatius’ book are the newspaper world and the ethical qualms of  Eric Truell, the main character who deals with something that often is talked about in journalism seminars.  How close should a reporter become with a source, and what if that source is from the intelligence community?

Needless to say, I recommend both books.  As odd as it may sound try reading them at the same time.  They do–pardon my bad pun–book-end each other in a very comfortable and entertaining fashion.  After 13 years of blogging, and many posts about books and authors, this is the first time I have offered a combo read as a recommendation. 

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